Blast-ripped industrial zone a hub ‘twice size of Hong Kong’

Agence France-Presse
Blast-ripped industrial zone a hub ‘twice size of Hong Kong’
The hub hosts an auto plants, aircraft assembly lines, oil refineries and other service and production facilities

BEIJING, China – Thousands of burned-out cars lie in neat rows alongside mountains of crushed shipping containers, the smoldering frontline to enormous explosions that paralyzed one of China’s most important ports and industrial zones.

The Binhai New Area in northern China, where the blasts killed at least 50 people and injured more than 500, is a giant logistics hub more than twice the size of Hong Kong.

It hosts auto plants, aircraft assembly lines, oil refineries and other service and production facilities, and describes itself as a “modern manufacturing and research base” on its website.

The area is home to one of the world’s fastest supercomputers, which was shut down as a precaution after Wednesday night’s huge blasts. 

It is also a major automobile trans-shipment point where about 10,000 imported cars were destroyed, according to the Qilu Evening News, 2,748 from German manufacturer Volkswagen.

A Volkswagen official said in an email that its vehicles had been damaged, but did not provide a figure, adding that it was “working to assess the extent of the damage”.

An official with France’s Renault, meanwhile, said that at least 1,500 of its vehicles had been destroyed.

Tianjin is a major port for northern China, handling containers amounting to more than 14 million 20-foot equivalent units last year, according to the Binhai website.

Operations at the port were “basically paralysed” by the blast, the official China Securities Journal reported.

Resources giant BHP Billiton – for which China is a crucial market – said in a statement that its iron ore discharge berths were undamaged, with the closest 20 kilometres from the blast site.

But it said that “shipments and port operations have been disrupted” by the blast and it was working with its customers “to minimize any potential impact.”

Europe’s Airbus also said it was assessing the effect on port operations.

It has an assembly line for its popular A320 aircraft in the area and said Thursday, August 13, that the blast was far from the facility and caused no immediate damage. 

“The Airbus Tianjin site is far beyond the area of explosion. There is no impact on the employees and the facilities,” it told Agence France-Presse in an emailed statement. “Operations at Airbus Tianjin run normally today.”

But it added: “The potential impact on logistics via Tianjin Port… is currently under investigation.”

Japanese auto giant Toyota has a joint venture car plant in Binhai, but an executive with the operation said the factory was on summer vacation and was not affected in the explosion.

The Binhai New Area covers 2,270 square kilometres (876 square miles) and has a coastline of 153 kilometres (95 miles), the website says.

It is focussed on eight main industries including aerospace and aviation, electronics and information, equipment manufacturing, petrochemical and new energy and material.

Chinese supercomputer Tianhe-1A was also shut down, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing officials at the National Supercomputing Centre in Binhai.

The machine itself was intact after the explosion and running normally, Xinhua said, but the building housing it was damaged and it was switched off due to security concerns. – 

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