The scene of the explosion in Tianjin. Credit: Imaginechina/AP

The scene of the explosion in Tianjin. Credit: Imaginechina/AP

Courts in Tianjin last week sentenced a company chairman to death and 49 others to prison for actions leading to an explosion last year in which at least 165 people were killed, reports official Chinese news agency Xinhua.

"On Aug. 12, 2015, a series of explosions ripped through a warehouse of Ruihai Logistics Co. Ltd. (Ruihai Logistics) in Tianjin Port, leaving 165 people dead, eight missing, and 798 injured," Xinhua says. "The blasts also damaged 304 buildings, 12,428 cars, and 7,533 containers, incurring economic losses amounting to 6.87 billion yuan (1.01 billion U.S. dollars)."

"Yu Xuewei, chairman of Ruihai Logistics, was found guilty of bribing port administration officials with cash and goods worth 157,500 yuan (23,333 U.S. dollars) to obtain a certificate to handle hazardous chemicals at the port," Xinhua reports. "Yu was convicted of illegal storage of hazardous materials, illegal business operations, causing incidents involving hazardous materials, and bribery. He was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve."

The 49 people who received prison sentences included 24 managers and other employees of Ruihai Logistics and Tianjin Zhongbin Haisheng, as well as 25 government officials. "Officials of various government agencies involving transportation, ports, customs, industrial safety, city planning, and maritime affairs were also responsible for the accident due to dereliction of duty and abuse of power," Xinhua says.

Investigators determined that the incident started when overly dry nitrocellulose overheated and spontaneously ignited, reported C&EN's Jean-Fran=C3=A7ois Tremblay last year. The fire started by the nitrocellulose spread to ammonium nitrate fertilizer, which exploded.

h/t Jean-Fran=C3=A7ois Tremblay