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Economy

Impact of Tianjin disaster reverberates across Chinese economy

Chinese environmental authorities say they are monitoring the air but Tianjin residents are uneasy.

TIANJIN, China -- The massive explosions at the port of Tianjin last week likely will have far-reaching repercussions on the broader economy, resulting in a prolonged slowdown of industrial activity and necessitating massive compensation for affected residents.

     "I am responsible," Tianjin Mayor Huang Xingguo told reporters in the Binhai New Area, where the blasts occurred. "Some companies will face difficulties for a while but we will support them as much as we can," Huang said, noting that 176 companies were affected.

     Huang, a member of the Communist Party's Central Committee, is considered a close aide to President Xi Jinping. That he showed up for a press conference signals the urgency with which Beijing is trying to respond.

     Some 17,000 condominium units were damaged by the Aug. 12 blasts, which occurred at a warehouse containing toxic chemicals. Reports on Wednesday of the detection of nerve gas at the site further spooked residents. Environmental authorities' assurances that no such gas has been detected failed to calm them.

     A Toyota Motor plant nearby will remain shut through Saturday. The facility was on a scheduled shutdown for summer holiday when the blast happened and stayed closed through Wednesday. Now, out of fear of another explosion and concern for the safety of workers, the company has postponed the reopening.

     Mitsubishi Motors will reroute its China-bound shipments from Japan so they arrive in Shanghai and Dalian instead of Tianjin. Fuji Heavy Industries, which suffered damage to over 100 new vehicles, plans to change the destination of a shipment leaving Japan on Thursday to Shanghai, instead of Tianjin.

     A facility of U.S. company Hewlett-Packard sustained heavy damage, as did a commercial site of retail group Aeon, and it is unclear when their operations will return to normal.

     Business activity in the area will be reduced for a while, and damage compensation for residents will be massive. Economic loss is expected to top 50 billion yuan ($7.81 billion), Chinese media reported.

     Port facilities in Shanghai, coastal parts of Zhejiang Province and in the city of Chongqing -- along the Yangtze River -- are now subject to mandatory inspections. Chemical manufacturers and warehouse operators are being targeted, and heavy restrictions and tighter customs processing are affecting operations, an industry insider said.

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