Though Union laid dormant over the summer, the world outside kept on turning and events both good and bad shook the world.
Among these, perhaps the most disastrous and horrifying were the series of chemical explosions that rocked the Chinese port city of Tianjin mid-August.
The first and second explosions, set a mere 30 seconds apart, ripped through the Binhai New Area of Tianjin on Aug. 12, originating from a couple of warehouses owned by Ruihai Logistics, a firm specializing in hazardous materials.
Beginning as a mere warehouse fire, first responders to the scene attempted to douse the fire with standard water hoses, unaware of the highly toxic and reactive chemicals housed in the building.
The water reacted with the chemicals within the depot to form more volatile compounds, and the first explosion was recorded 40 minutes after the fire was spotted.
Weighing in at magnitude 2.3 and equivalent to three tons of TNT, the explosion destroyed a large area and signaled the beginning of the humanitarian and ecological disaster that is still being cleaned.
The fire and explosions soon spread out of control, with the second and most powerful explosion equal in power to 21 tons of TNT.
Explosions continued intermittently until Aug. 15, and were reported to spawn fireballs hundreds of feet high, visible to the Japanese weather satellite Himawari.
By the end, the explosions had claimed 159 lives and injured 797 more. Unfortunately 14 people, mostly firefighters, remain missing, presumed dead.
As events unfolded, it was quickly revealed that the catastrophe was the result of gross negligence and possibly corruption.
The area around the warehouse was a densely populated area, home to more than 5,600 families within a mile of the building, defying all safety ordinances.
Moreover, the local inhabitants were wholly unaware of the danger posed by the warehouse, which was licensed to store calcium carbide, sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate.
Worse still, mishandling of government documents and general poor record keeping meant that authorities were unable to determine which chemicals were present in the facility at the time of the explosion.
According to local reports, nearly 800 tons of ammonium nitrate and 500 tons of potassium nitrate exploded. The deputy director of the fire department stated, “Over 40 kinds of hazardous chemicals (were stored on site). As far as we know, there were ammonium nitrate and potassium nitrate. According to what we know so far, all together there should have been around 3,000 tonnes.”
Among these chemicals were at least 700 tons of sodium cyanide, an incredibly toxic chemical.
It, along with many other hazardous chemicals were spilled into the surrounding streets following the explosions, and many feared that these chemicals contaminated the nearby water sources and sewers.
These fears were exacerbated when three days after the last explosion, a torrent of rain produced a white chemical foam in the streets that induced rashes, irritated the skin and produced a stinging sensation in the throats of citizens.
A few days later, thousands of dead fish washed up on beaches not too far from the explosions, creating further panic.
It seems impossible that a government, let alone one as organized and regimented as the CPC, could be so negligent as to allow deadly chemicals to be stored near population centers like Tianjin.
Indeed, national regulations mandated at least a full kilometer between such storage facilities and the public.
Nevertheless, Ruihai Logistics was allowed to store an unknown amount of deadly chemicals within 600 meters of the public, essentially without any supervision.
The entire situation reeks of the kind of corporate corruption endemic in China, which the CPC has only recently begun making progress against.
Oftentimes the true potential for tragedy that corruption causes is forgotten, and so such terrible events like this are allowed to occur.
Whoever is responsible for allowing the gross misconduct of both the Ruihai Logistics company and the government meant to regulate them better be having a pretty bad month.