Government Investigates After 'Loud Blasts' Rock Sichuan's Capital

china-tianjian-explosion-site-aug20-2015.jpg Workers in decontamination suits clean up the site of the explosions in Tianjin, a major port city in northeastern China, Aug. 20, 2015.

Chinese authorities in the southwestern province of Sichuan are investigating loud blasts that rocked the provincial capital, Chengdu, on Thursday, officials said.

Social media posts reported three loud explosions that shook the city and surrounding counties including Shuangliu, Wenjiang and Chuanyin at 1.22 p.m. local time on Friday.

"All the glass clearly shook in the windows of ... the Sichuan Media University," user @hemingway716 wrote in comments reported by the
Internet portal
"I heard blasts, and at the same time there was a loud noise from an aircraft flying overhead," the user wrote.

Some speculated that the bangs were caused by fighter jets breaking the sound barrier.

"They flew overhead, they always do that several times a day, but then there were a few loud explosions," user @zhubeimianpinishixian added.

An employee who answered the phone at the Chengdu municipal government offices on Thursday said the government is still trying to confirm the cause of the blasts.

"We are still trying to confirm this incident," the employee said. "You should call the municipal party committee propaganda department."

However, an official who answered the phone at the propaganda department said they had received no official account of the blasts.

"Sorry, we haven't received any details on this; they should still be in the process of investigating it," the official said.

"We haven't received any announcement about this matter."

A Chengdu resident surnamed Xie told RFA that he had also heard three very loud bangs, but hadn't seen anything that could have caused them.

"I didn't see anything but there were three huge blasts, and then nothing more," Xie said. "It sounded like a building falling down, or something like that."

"I think there were three explosions, maybe one or two seconds apart."

Shuangliu county resident Wang Hui said she thought one of the tires on her car had blown out when she heard the first blast.

Then she began to worry that it might be something similar to the devastating Tianjin chemical factory blasts on Aug. 12.

"To the north of Chengdu, there is a large petrochemical, PX plant in Pengzhou," Wang said. "I couldn't tell where the blasts were coming
from, but my first reaction was to think it might have something to do with that."

"Of course I'm worried, because I'm just a regular person who cares about their own health and safety and that of their loved ones and friends," she said.

"There are tens of millions of people liveing in the vicinity of the Pengzhou petrochemical complex, and we would definitely be affected by any leaks."

"We don't want the tragedy of Tianjin and other provinces to be re-enacted in Chengdu," she said.

Chengdu-based rights activist Huang Qi said he had heard from an anonymous source that the blasts were linked to a test flight conducted by a Sichuan-based aircraft company.

He called on the government to give an explanation for the blasts, to prevent rumors from circulating online.

"China's military industries are progressing by leaps and bounds, and they carry out all sorts of tests and work hard for our national defense," Huang said.

"I hope the government will release the relevant information to the people in a timely way, so as to prevent panic," he said.

However, the China Earthquake Administration said on its official Twitter-like account on Sina Weibo that it had "no records" of any earthquake in the area, which was devastated by a massive quake in May 2008, Sohu reported.

At least 160 people died on Aug. 12 when massive explosions ripped through a hazardous chemicals warehouse in the port area of Tianjin,
destroying residential buildings near the epicenter and shattering glass up to five kilometers (three miles) away.

Just days later, at least nine people were injured after a blast ripped through a chemical plant in Zibo city, in the eastern province of Shandong, starting a fire at the Shandong Runxing Chemical Technology Co.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party ordered nationwide safety checks at all hazardous materials and nuclear facilities in the wake of the Tianjin disaster.

However, it also launched a crackdown on online "rumor-mongering," ordering the country's tightly controlled media outlets to stick to officially approved news stories on similar events.

Tweets and social media messages linked to the disaster initially gave a real-time glimpse of the two devastating explosions and their
aftermath, but were later tracked down and deleted by China's Internet censors.

China's draconian Internet agency, the Cyberspace Administration, said in September that it had suspended more than 360 social media accounts since the blasts rocked Tianjin.

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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