Tianjin International Ruihai Logistics, the Chinese company whose warehouse in Tianjin exploded last week killing at least 114 people, did not have a license to handle hazardous chemicals until two months ago, Xinhua news agency says.
The news agency also said that for eight months before June, the company handled hazardous chemicals without the right documents.
Nearly 700 people were injured in August 12 devastating blasts.
Ceremonies in the port city honored the dead on August 18.
Cargo ships blared their horns and people gathered in silence to mark the day.
Tianjin residents have been staging protests demanding compensation for property damage from the government.
Thousands of people had to evacuate their homes after toxic chemicals were detected in the air following the blasts at the world’s 10th-busiest port.
Some 17,000 homes were damaged by the explosions and their shockwaves.
The warehouse was storing hundreds of tonnes of sodium cyanide, far more than legally allowed, it has emerged
It was also within 1,640ft of homes, in violation of laws that require a mile minimum distance.
On August 18, Xinhua quoted an unidentified executive from the company as saying: “The company has handled hazardous chemicals during a period without a license.”
The agency said documents showed the company was approved to handle hazardous chemicals between April and October last year.
Ruihai obtained a port operation license two months ago which again allowed it to work with toxic chemicals, Xinhua said.
Ten people, including Ruihai head Yu Xuewei and deputy head Dong Shexuan, were detained on August 13, state media reported.
China’s top prosecutor is reported to be investigating all involved officials for dereliction of duty and other crimes.
Doubts have also been cast on a consultation process Ruihai claims it had with residents, in which most respondents were said to have raised no objection to the company operating.
Meanwhile, heavy rain has hampered recovery efforts.
Experts expressed concern that rain could spread some of the vast quantities of hazardous material at the site or set off chemical reactions sparking further explosions.
People in Tianjin whose homes were damaged by the huge explosions on August 12 have staged protests to demand compensation from the Chinese government.
Scores gathered outside the Mayfair Hotel, where officials have been giving news conferences.
Residents say the chemical storage warehouses which blew up had been built illegally close to their homes.
The explosions focused on a warehouse which was storing sodium cyanide.
An investigation into the cause of the explosions is under way.
The warehouse was storing hundreds of tonnes of sodium cyanide, far more than legally allowed. It was also within 1,640ft of homes, flouting laws which state a 1km minimum distance.
Local media had earlier reported that there were at least three residential complexes within one mile of the warehouse, which belonged to Ruihai International Logistics.
In the latest in a number of small protests, the people gathered at the Mayfair Hotel on August 17 said they wanted compensation for their damaged homes, and would refuse to return to them even if they were ruled safe.
In an open letter to the authorities, the residents said their groundwater could have been contaminated, and that logistics companies and chemical “dumping grounds” remained close to residential complexes.
“Our neighbors lost their lives there. Their screams can never be erased for a long time. How can we live in that ‘execution ground’ with any peace of mind?” the letter states.
Sodium cyanide is white crystalline or granular powder which can be rapidly fatal if inhaled or ingested, as it interferes with the body’s ability to use oxygen.
It is mostly used in chemical manufacturing, for fumigation and in the mining industry to extract gold and silver.
It is soluble in water, and absorbs water from air. Its dust is also easy to inhale. When dissolved or burned, it releases the highly poisonous gas hydrogen cyanide.
Public demonstrations remain rare in China, but authorities have allowed some criticism on the highly-publicized Tianjin incident, with even state media taking issue with local authorities’ handling of the matter.
Many of the rules designed to keep people safe in Tianjin were bent, broken or ignored.
There have also been real questions about the leadership and training of the firefighters who arrived first on the scene on August 12 – all but a handful are missing or dead.
Tianjin Deputy Mayor He Shushan promised: “Once we find any actions that have violated the regulations and laws, we will resolutely punish them and give answers to the victims and people affected.”
The protests come amid continuing uncertainty about the wider environmental impact of the explosion, although state media have sought to tamp down rumors of widespread contamination.
Authorities are still cleaning up the site and putting out the fire at one last active burning point.
Officials said on August 17 that three waste water discharge monitoring stations within the 3km-radius evacuated area around the blast zone found excessive levels of cyanide, with one station recording a level 27.4 times the normal limit, reported People’s Daily.
However, authorities have stressed that the area is sealed off and hazardous material was contained at the site, and that all the sodium cyanide would be collected and neutralized by the day’s end.
They also said only one air quality monitoring station had detected a minimally higher level of hydrogen cyanide.
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