Top executives detained as China investigates Tianjin warehouse blasts

Updated 4:56 AM EDT, Tue August 18, 2015
TIANJIN, CHINA - AUGUST 17: (CHINA OUT) Rescuers work at the blast site during the aftermath of the warehouse explosion on August 17, 2015 in Tianjin, China. The death toll has risen to 114 following last Wednesday night
PHOTO: ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images
TIANJIN, CHINA - AUGUST 17: (CHINA OUT) Rescuers work at the blast site during the aftermath of the warehouse explosion on August 17, 2015 in Tianjin, China. The death toll has risen to 114 following last Wednesday night's explosion at a warehouse in the Binhai New Area of Tianjin. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:12
Fears of chemical contamination linger in Tianjin
A resident injured by the explosions that hit a nearby chemical warehouse last week holds a photo of herself injured as she joins a protest outside the hotel where authorities are holding a press conferences in Tianjin on August 17, 2015. Rescuers at a Chinese industrial site where huge explosions killed at least 114 people combed through thousands of crushed shipping containers on August 17 in an effort to contain vast amounts of highly toxic cyanide, officials said, as state-run media lambasted authorities for their response to the tragedy. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTOSTR/AFP/Getty Images
PHOTO: AFP/Getty Images
A resident injured by the explosions that hit a nearby chemical warehouse last week holds a photo of herself injured as she joins a protest outside the hotel where authorities are holding a press conferences in Tianjin on August 17, 2015. Rescuers at a Chinese industrial site where huge explosions killed at least 114 people combed through thousands of crushed shipping containers on August 17 in an effort to contain vast amounts of highly toxic cyanide, officials said, as state-run media lambasted authorities for their response to the tragedy. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTOSTR/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:37
Tianjin blast: Chinese citizens demand accountability
china tianjin explosion firefighter speaks sot_00001915.jpg
PHOTO: Reuters
china tianjin explosion firefighter speaks sot_00001915.jpg
Now playing
00:51
Tianjin firefighter tells story of survival
A woman (C) holds a name list of missing firefighters as family members talk to media to seek for help after being barred from a press conference authorities have at a hotel in Tianjin on August 15, 2015. Furious, frustrated and fearful, relatives of the missing in giant explosions in Tianjin besieged officials on August 15 demanding answers on their loved ones
PHOTO: STR/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A woman (C) holds a name list of missing firefighters as family members talk to media to seek for help after being barred from a press conference authorities have at a hotel in Tianjin on August 15, 2015. Furious, frustrated and fearful, relatives of the missing in giant explosions in Tianjin besieged officials on August 15 demanding answers on their loved ones's fates- only for security to intervene instead.CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:59
Chinese families demand answers in blasts
Now playing
04:43
CNN crew confronted at Tianjin blast site
china tianjin explosions dangerous chemical reaction van dam cnni nr lklv_00001805.jpg
china tianjin explosions dangerous chemical reaction van dam cnni nr lklv_00001805.jpg
Now playing
01:36
Dangerous chemical reactions possible in Tianjin
PHOTO: Reuters
Now playing
04:24
New fire at Tianjin blast site
exp china-tianjin-explosions ripley dnt erin_00020501.jpg
exp china-tianjin-explosions ripley dnt erin_00020501.jpg
Now playing
03:01
Video shows shock waves from deadly explosions in China
A damaged car is seen at the site of the massive explosions in Tianjin on August 13, 2015. Enormous explosions in a major Chinese port city killed at least 44 people and injured more than 500, state media reported on August 13, leaving a devastated industrial landscape of incinerated cars, toppled shipping containers and burnt-out buildings. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTOSTR/AFP/Getty Images
PHOTO: AFP/Getty Images
A damaged car is seen at the site of the massive explosions in Tianjin on August 13, 2015. Enormous explosions in a major Chinese port city killed at least 44 people and injured more than 500, state media reported on August 13, leaving a devastated industrial landscape of incinerated cars, toppled shipping containers and burnt-out buildings. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTOSTR/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
03:15
Cause of massive Tianjin blast still unknown
An explosion took place in China
PHOTO: Chinese Public Security Ministry
An explosion took place in China's northern city of Tianjin late Wednesday, August 12, 2015 evening, according to China's state-owned broadcaster CCTV. The explosion occurred at a container port where flammable material was being stored in containers, says CCTV. Residents report hearing loud explosions and feeling strong tremors nearby. The Teda Hospital, located near the scene of explosion, has received more than 50 injured people, the country's state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Now playing
03:13
Huge explosions in China kill dozens, injures hundreds
china tianjin damage drone stout lkl_00003520.jpg
PHOTO: Tencent/@Grasswire
china tianjin damage drone stout lkl_00003520.jpg
Now playing
00:41
Drone flies over China blast area
china tianjin explosion scene ripley_00011329.jpg
china tianjin explosion scene ripley_00011329.jpg
Now playing
02:20
Video shows aftermath of Tianjin explosion, shockwave
china explosion hospital ripley_00005411.jpg
PHOTO: via Skype
china explosion hospital ripley_00005411.jpg
Now playing
01:54
Emotions run high at Chinese hospital after blasts
china explosion update ripley live tsr_00001918.jpg
PHOTO: YouTube/News24x7
china explosion update ripley live tsr_00001918.jpg
Now playing
00:45
Sources: At least 180 people injured in blast
PHOTO: YouTube/News24x7
Now playing
02:26
Massive explosion reportedly injures 500 in China
PHOTO: Chinese Public Security Ministry
Now playing
01:08
Massive explosion rocks Tianjin, China
china tianjin explosion ripley pkg_00020012.jpg
PHOTO: AFP/Getty Images
china tianjin explosion ripley pkg_00020012.jpg
Now playing
02:07
Blasts rocks northern Chinese city of Tianjin

Story highlights

NEW: Senior Tianjin government official under investigation

President, vice president and chief financial officer among the 10 detained

Company had license to handle dangerous chemicals, state media reports

Victims mourned at the accident site, with death toll at 114

(CNN) —  

Ten senior executives of the company that owned the warehouse site that exploded in the Chinese city of Tianjin have been detained, state media reported Tuesday, as authorities promised to investigate the cause of the disaster.

Li Liang, the president of Tianjin Dongjiang Port Rui Hai International Logistics Co, which stores and transports chemicals, was among those being held, as was the company’s vice president, Cao Haijun, and Song Qi, the chief financial officer.

They have been under detention since August 13. Earlier reports had said two unnamed executives of the firm were in detention.

Massive explosions rocked the northeastern coastal city late Wednesday, killing at least 114 people, officials said, and devastating a large industrial zone and nearby residences.

At least 65 people are still missing, according to the latest figures from authorities.

Thousands of officials, firefighters, policemen and local residents mourned the victims at the blast site Tuesday, bowing their heads and observing a moment of silence to pay their respects.

China also said it was investigating the director of the country’s work safety agency, Yang Dongliang, who was also Tianjin’s vice mayor until 2012.

Yang was being investigated for “severe violation of discipline and law”, the Chinese Communist Party corruption watchdog said, but didn’t directly link the probe to the disaster.

MORE: Were ‘hero’ firefighters ill prepared for enormity of blasts?

Questions over license

Official news agency Xinhua said the company was licensed to handle dangerous chemicals at the time of the blasts but only obtained that license in June. A previous license had lapsed in October 2014.

The warehouse was a temporary storage facility that housed materials after they arrived at the port and before they were transported elsewhere, city officials have said.

Several hundred tons of sodium cyanide, a highly toxic chemical that can kills humans rapidly, have been found at two locations and are being cleaned up, they added.

Residents in Tianjin with homes near the blast site have shared their concerns about the long-term environmental and health consequences of the blasts.

A CNN team in the city says barrels of unknown chemicals propelled by the explosions remain close to residential areas and they witnessed chemicals reacting with rain water, emitting white steam.

Bao Jingling, chief engineer of Tianjin Environmental Protection Bureau, said Wednesday that air quality outside the blast zone was normal and the cyanide concentration in tested water and soil was in normal range.

However, cyanide was detected over limit at eight water monitoring spots inside the warning zone, with levels at one spot exceeding limits by 277 times. Bao said that this was at the outlet of a blocked pipe and wouldn’t pollute surrounding areas.

China’s State Council has formed an investigative committee to “give a responsible answer” on the cause of the disaster and promised “serious punishment,” Xinhua reported Tuesday.

“Many are questioning about the number of people killed in the blasts, the emergency assistance provided, and the handling of the aftermath. Some are even suspicious, with rumors circling,” said a commentary in the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece.

“In the face of an accident that has caused heavy losses of life and property, the central government’s attitude is clear and resolute: a thorough investigation and severe punishment are beyond any doubt,” it concluded.

Tianjin blasts: Another profound lesson?

The explosions are also taking their toll on business in the port city.

Japanese car maker Toyota said that it had been forced to halt production at three production lines in the city, with one factory located just 3 km from blast site.

CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo and Brian Walker in Atlanta contributed to this report