Massive explosions destroyed warehouses in Tianjin, north-eastern China leaving 50 people , including firement, dead and over 700 injured shortly before midnight on Wednesday.
According to witnesses a giant fireball up to 100 metres high tore through the night sky as they rushed from their homes fearing an earthquake.
Health workers at a hospital were overwhelmed as they tried to cope up with 300 and 400 who arrived following the blasts. State media said over 70 people were ''critically injured.''
The second hit with a force equivalent to 21 tons of TNT, flattening everything in the area.
''It was like what we were told a nuclear bomb would be like,'' a truck driver, Zhao Zhencheng, told AP. ''I never thought I'd see such a thing. It was terrifying, but also beautiful.''
Camera images showed a huge ball of fire dwarfed nearby tower blocks as the blasts ripped through the area.
The blasts occurred in shipping containers in a warehouse for hazardous materials. There was increasing concern today over the safety of the blast area.
Twelve firefighters are reported to be among the dead.
The explosions, that were so large they were picked up by satellites in space, reportedly happened around 11:30pm (3:30pm GMT) in the Binhai district. The explosions shattered windows and knocked off doors of buildings in the area, Beijing News reported.
The explosion occurred at a warehouse for explosive and dangerous goods and according to Xinhua News, the first explosion was equivalent to 3 tons of TNT, and the second, 21 tons.
According to Xinhua, the blasts triggered others in the vicinity.
Xinhua reported that 1,000 firefighters were called to tackle the blazes while, according to the state-run Beijing News, Tianjin fire authorities said they had lost contact with 36 firefighters, and that another 33 were among the hundreds of people being treated in nearby hospitals.
The cause of the explosions was not known but videos from the scene showed a dramatic fireball exploding near the site of a fire.
Charred vehicles could be seen in images from the site after day break.
President Xi Jinping called on authorities to "make full effort to rescue and treat the injured and ensure the safety of people and their property".
In a statement Xi said those responsible should be "severely handled".