Chief Minister’s concern for city hit by explosion

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, smoke and fire erupt into the sky after an explosion in the Binhai New Area in northeastern China's Tianjin municipality early Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Huge explosions at a warehouse for dangerous materials at the Chinese port of Tianjin late Wednesday. (Yue Yuewei/Xinhua via AP) NO SALES

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, smoke and fire erupt into the sky after an explosion in the Binhai New Area in northeastern China's Tianjin municipality early Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Huge explosions at a warehouse for dangerous materials at the Chinese port of Tianjin late Wednesday. (Yue Yuewei/Xinhua via AP) NO SALES

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The island’s Chief Minister has voiced his concern for the people of Tianjin, the Chinese city with which the Isle of Man has forged links in recent years, after it was rocked by a devastating explosion yesterday.

Allan Bell, who has visited the city more than once, most recently in April this year, said he had already sent a letter to the city’s vice mayor expressing sympathy for the catastrophe.

‘This is quite close to home because we know the city very well. Last year we visited it, and again in April this year, and we have a good working relationship with the Tianjin authorities,’ he said.

He said the island had a memorandum of understanding with the city, which aimed to further economic development and co-operation between the two parties.

‘In the last 12 months they have sent representatives to the Isle of Man and we have a Chinese resident in Ramsey who has been working with us to develop the relationship.’

The explosion, in a warehouse in the port area, where hazardous chemicals were stored, was said to have caused an enormous fireball reaching hundreds of feet in the air and the force of the blast could be felt by residents on the other side of the city, which has a population of seven million people and is around 70 miles from Bejing. So far, 44 people are known to have died with hundreds more packing the casualty departments of the city’s hospitals.

‘This is a very large city so the chances of our knowing anyone affected are slim but this will be a huge blow to the city, quite apart from the obvious loss of life,’ Mr Bell said.

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