3 missing in gas explosion in major port city in northern China

BEIJING — A gas explosion after a building partially collapsed in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin on Tuesday morning left three people missing and 11 injured.

The incident is still under investigation, but it seems to indicate the deterioration of infrastructure after more than three decades of meteoric economic growth.

This development has dramatically improved living standards while often circumventing safety and environmental regulations.

Three floors of the six-story building collapsed. The official Xinhua news agency reported that the ensuing explosion occurred around 7:15 a.m.

Photos from the scene showed the upper floors of the building collapsed, but no obvious damage to neighboring units.

Tianjin is about an hour by train from Beijing and has long been one of China’s most developed and international cities.

A massive explosion in 2015 at a chemical warehouse in Tianjin killed 173 people, mostly firefighters and police. The chemicals were found to have been falsely recorded and stored, with local authorities complicit in turning a blind eye to the potential threat.

China is replacing decades-old infrastructure, with natural gas pipes used for cooking, heat and power generation being of particular concern.

A 2013 explosion in the northeast port of Qingdao killed 62 people when underground pipes opened following a leak.

Smaller incidents have since followed, including explosions at a hotel in the northeast city of Shenyang and a residential community in the central city of Shiyan, which killed a total of 28 people.

Building codes are also loosely enforced in rural and suburban areas, with extra levels added to homes and businesses that lack the structural integrity to support them. In April, a block comprising apartments and restaurants collapsed in the city of Changsha, killing 53 people.

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