Crawford GTS®: First on the Scene of Tianjin Blast

13 August, 2015: Shipping containers sit piled up next to a badly damaged building after a series of explosions in a chemical warehouse hit the city of Tianjin in northern China. ©NAITONG LIU/NEWZULU/Alamy Live News

On 12 August 2015, a series of explosions in the Port of Tianjin, China, left at least 173 people dead, 8 missing, and almost 800 injured. The catastrophe, which was the result of improperly stored chemicals detonating, has affected more than 17,000 households and 1,700 businesses.

Crawford & Company’s Global Technical Services® (GTS™) team, among the first to respond to the scene, continues to advise and support customers in the Tianjin area. These highly specialized and skilled adjusters are applying their knowledge of motor, cargo, liability, and property claims and assisting clients in the aftermath of this tragic disaster.

The following is a first-hand account shared by Paul Spurdle, technical director of Crawford China Limited. Spurdle has the following credentials: FCILA, ACII, FUEDI-ELAE, FIFAA.

13 August, 2015: Shipping containers sit piled up next to a badly damaged building after a series of explosions in a chemical warehouse hit the city of Tianjin in northern China. ©NAITONG LIU/NEWZULU/Alamy Live News

13 August, 2015: Shipping containers sit piled up next to a badly damaged building after a series of explosions in a chemical warehouse hit the city of Tianjin in northern China. ©NAITONG LIU/NEWZULU/Alamy Live News

“We first heard about the explosion in Tianjin through the local news coverage. We then started receiving claims from domestic and international markets. Our employees in the Crawford Tianjin and Beijing offices were on site fairly quickly, but they couldn’t get into the immediate port area; and could only rely on news coverage to see what was happening inside.

“Outside the exclusion zone, we mainly dealt with blast damage rather than fire. Numerous windows and structural elements of the buildings had been damaged; and sprinkler systems that were set off resulted in water damage. Production machinery was affected and will need repaired and recalibrated. Ensuing business interruption issues are not only a result of the property damage, but also factory closures mandated due to environmental safety concerns.

“We are helping one automobile manufacturer who has a significant number of cars that suffered damage outside the exclusion zone. There are also about 10,000 vehicles inside the exclusion zone, which are owned by various other foreign manufacturers. We were allowed limited access inside the port on 25 August, and most of these vehicles appear to be a total loss.

“The existence of toxic chemicals is a major concern and one of the primary reasons why the government established the original exclusion zone in the 3-kilometer area surrounding the explosion. Obviously, they needed to secure the site, undertake the necessary investigation to identify the cause, and ensure that all toxic chemicals had been removed and neutralised.

14 August, 2015: Crawford adjusters work among devastation in Tianjin, China, following two warehouse explosions that left widespread damage. ©NAITONG LIU/NEWZULU/Alamy Live News

14 August, 2015: Crawford adjusters work among devastation in Tianjin, China, following two warehouse explosions that left widespread damage. ©NAITONG LIU/NEWZULU/Alamy Live News

“It’s been reported that the warehouse at the centre of the blast was regulated to store a maximum 10 tonnes of the sodium cyanide chemical (allegedly the initial cause of the explosion); although some media reports suggest that the actual stored quantity was in the region of 700 tonnes. This matter is under investigation by the authorities, and an official report will be issued in due course.

“Many dead fish have washed up after the explosion, which raises concerns regarding environmental pollution issues. Hopefully, any such problems have been contained; however, we rely on the authorities to provide us with accurate information in that regard. Safety remains a primary concern at this stage.”

Crawford has published the research whitepaper, Tianjin Blast 2015: Crawford & Company Catastrophe Response Update. The paper summarizes how Crawford GTS® adjusters based in Beijing and Tianjin, China, quickly applied their knowledge of motor, cargo, liability, property and business-interruption claims.

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