50 dead, over 700 injured, after blast rocks busy Chinese port (VIDEOS, PHOTOS)

Two blasts shook the northeastern Chinese city of Tianjin late on Wednesday. Some 700 people have been injured, 71 critically, and 50 are dead, according to the latest report by Xinhua news agency.

A total of 12 firefighters have been confirmed dead, according to Chinese state television. Authorities have lost contact with 36 other firefighters, Xinhua reported.

Hundreds of people have been transported to hospitals.  

Many of the injuries being treated at the hospital are from broken glass or stones, Lu Yun, head of the nearby Taida Hospital, told the Xinhua News Agency.

The National Earthquake Bureau said there were two large explosions before midnight, the first equivalent to 3 tons of TNT, and the second equivalent to 21 tons.

A team of 214 military specialists trained in handling nuclear an biochemical materials arrived in Tianjin on Thursday. The team is from the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Beijing Military Area Command.

Firefighters have suspended their efforts at the scene, citing questions about the warehouse’s contents and the quantity of “dangerous goods” it might contain, local government said in a statement on Thursday.

The Ministry of Public Security sent 12 teams to the site following reports of the fire. It then dispatched another nine teams and 35 fire engines following the sound of the explosion. 

The blast had erupted from a shipment of explosives in a key industrial zone in Binhai New Area at about 11:30 pm local time (3:30 pm GMT), state broadcaster China Central Television said. The initial blast triggered a suspected petrol explosion in an adjacent reservoir.

Images released by state media showed evacuated people running in the streets.

The blast wave shattered windows in nearby offices and apartment blocks, and the impact was felt up to 10 km away.

“All of a sudden there was a flash of big red light, and a big sound. And 10 seconds afterwards, there was a big wave,” the South China Morning Post cited one online user.

With a rapidly-expanding population of more than 11.5 million people, Tianjin is designated as one of China's five national cities, and is a major industrial and transport hub.