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As rescue workers in the Chinese port city of Tianjin searched for survivors this weekend, battling fires still burning four days after Wednesday’s terrifying blast, another threat emerged.
Even as Premier Li Keqiang praised fallen firefighters and the death rose to at least 114, CNN reported, officials and locals also feared that thunderstorms expected Monday afternoon could make the situation even worse.
Soldiers raced to clean up remaining chemicals before showers could create clouds of toxic gas, Shi Luze, the chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army’s Beijing Military Region, told reporters.
Of particular concern were the 100 tons of deadly sodium cyanide stored at two locations on the site, Shi said. Wednesday’s explosion, which shook the city and created massive fireballs many stories high, left un-exploded chemicals exposed to the elements.
“I’m worried,” migrant worker Tian Binyan told CNN. “I heard it’s going to rain later and that would make the air toxic.”
When wet, sodium cyanide releases hydrogen cyanide, a highly toxic gas that can kill within minutes, according to the Center for Disease Control.
But Shi said the chemicals posed no threat to people outside the two kilometer evacuation zone.
“I can responsibly say that there will be no secondary damage to the people,” he said Sunday, according to Reuters.
Despite Shi’s reassurances, however, the situation remained tense this weekend. Rescue workers wore gas masks and hazard suits as they searched the devastation for the dead or injured. And on Saturday, the government evacuated a school near the blast site after a change of wind raised concerns that survivors could be exposed to toxic chemicals, Reuters reported.
Greenpeace said that while early tests suggested the city’s water had not yet been contaminated with cyanide, Monday’s expected rain could set off reactions and wash dangerous chemicals into the earth, CNN reported.
The environmental group has also urged the Chinese government to expand its evacuation zone to five kilometres.
On Sunday, about 100 locals protested outside a hotel where government officials were holding a press conference.
“I’m very worried that these dangerous chemicals will harm my health,” Zhang Yinbao, who works in the chemical industry and lives half a mile from the blast site, told Reuters. “From a legal perspective it’s unreasonable that dangerous chemicals would be so close.”
Liu Yue, who lives 2.5 miles from the blast site, said she was taking precautions.
“I’ve told my parents not to drink tap water,” she told CNN.
Chinese state media sought to downplay the risk of rain, however.
“Meteorological experts say the rainfall will not pose a direct danger to human health, as it has been several days since the blast,” Xinhua reported. “But, if the rain dissolves the cyanide particles on the ground, underground water and soil will be contaminated. The local weather department has devised an artificial rain reduction plan to reduce possible harms to the environment.”
Fears of toxic clouds over Tianjin only compounded the city’s tragedy. Wednesday’s explosion, the cause of which has yet to be determined, killed at least 114 and sent more than 700 people to the hospital.
Nearly 100 people are still missing, most of them firefighters called in to battle the sprawling, chemical-fueled inferno.
Firefighters also make up a sizable fraction of the dead. On Sunday, Premier Li met with injured firefighters and praised their 21 fallen comrades.
“They are all heroes and deserve the respect of the whole society,” he said, according to Xinhua.
At a meeting of rescue organizers, Li also ordered the “swift release of information concerning the explosions in order to let the public know the real picture in timely manner,” Xinhua reported.
“The accident has incurred heavy casualties and taught us an extremely painful lesson,” Li said.
But the catastrophe is the latest in a series of incidents calling into question Chinese safety regulations and government transparency.
After a 2008 earthquake killed thousands of students in Sichuan province, the government was accused of suppressing information and protests by angry parents. Acclaimed artist Ai Wei Wei made the scandal a subject of his work.
In 2011, critics accused the government of covering up a high-speed rail crash that killed more than three dozen.
More recently, China was again accused of withholding information from the public about the capsizing of a cruise ship on the Yangtze River in early June, which killed almost all of the vessel’s 456 passengers.
[China tries to censor a disaster]
This time around, officials have scrambled to show concern. They immediately sent more than military biochemical specialists to the disaster site. And before Premier Li’s visit, President Xi Jinping also vowed a thorough investigation, promising that the responsible parties should be “severely handled,” Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, rescuers continued to comb the ruins for survivors over the weekend.
On Friday, rescuers found a 19-year-old firefighter clinging to life amid the rubble with burns and a cracked skull, according to CNN.
Since then, however, rescue workers have mostly found only the dead — including another firefighter whose body was discovered over the weekend.
“About a dozen other firefighters flanked and stood over the covered body in a solemn ceremony,” CNN reported, citing CCTV footage. “The comrades took off their helmets and bowed four times in a moment of reverence.”
A handful of firefighters carried the body away while the others saluted, before returning to their grim work among the smoldering wreckage.
A full inquest into the seven-year-old's death is not scheduled to be heard until shortly before the second anniversary of the tragedy
An inquest to determine the cause of seven-year-old schoolboy Zane Gbangbola’s death has now been set for almost two years after he died.
Friends and family this morning filled every chair at Woking Coroner’s Court for a pre-inquest review into the death.
About 10 people from the Truth About Zane campaign group gathered at the front of the court before the hearing with placards demanding answers. They wore red and orange flowers, Zane’s favourite, to symbolise the campaign.
In February of last year Zane, who attended St George’s Junior School, Weybridge, was taken to hospital with his mother Nicole Lawler, 37, and father Kye Gbangbola, 48, after being overcome by fumes when the basement of their £1m riverside property in Chertsey filled with floodwater.
His parents were rushed to hospital, where his father Kye Gbangbola would be left a paraplegic due to the effects of hydrogen cyanide poisoning.
Kye, along with Zane’s mum Nicole Lawler, have always maintained their son was killed due to that same deadly gas being released through water contaminated by a former landfill site behind their Thameside home.
Senior Surrey coroner Richard Travers said although a number of experts recently-consulted had come down on the side of carbon monoxide as the "most probable" cause of death, they were not able to be more certain than that.
He said: "There is evidence that hydrogen cyanide was detected at the scene."
However, a pre-inquest hearing at Woking Coroner’s Court on Friday heard Zane’s blood contained only 8% of the toxic gas - fatal levels are more than 50%. Blood levels below 30% is not toxic to humans and people living in any metropolitan area 12% to 15% is normal.
The family’s lawyer, Leslie Thomas QC, said at the hearing: “Can I remind you in this case [that] no carbon monoxide was found at the property. It was tested for and none was found.
"The only evidence of noxious gas that was detected at the property was hydrogen cyanide.”
The court heard how doctors at St Peter’s Hospital had conducted the wrong tests on Zane’s body for hydrogen cyanide poisoning.
“One of the issues in this case is the test for hydrogen cyanide has to be done very timely,” said Mr Thomas.
“There’s an issue whether or not the correct tests were done.
“When this issue should have been at the forefront of those doing the testing, they carried out the wrong tests.
“That in itself is another issue we say this inquest should be investigating.”
Representing Spelthorne Borough Council, barrister Ivor Collett argued only one reading from the fire brigade had shown hydrogen cyanide was present at the property, and said the device used could give a false reading.
“If we stick to the medical evidence of the child, and the feature is we have a very clear picture,” he said.
"Of course, we understand the suspicion of the family and know that it comes from the [hydrogen cyanide] reading. No-one can criticise the family for their suspicion.
"What you don’t have is any evidence at all, medically, of the presence, real or not, of cyanide being a component in the death of the child.”
This was superseded when the pre-inquest review was provided with one of the medical records that shows Kye is diagnosed 'Paraplegic due to Hydrogen Cyanide poisoning.
The pre-inquest review heard how in 2010 the Environment Agency (EA) had "gas-proofed" a lock keeper’s wooden shed it owned, adjacent to the Gbangbolas' home, when it found there was "moderate risk to human health through water from the gravel pit behind". The key context is the 'Moderate' was read out twice by Mr Thomas to mean 'Death and serious harm'
Mr Thomas said: “If the EA was aware of the risks from this land to the extent to protect its own building, should they have notified others and its immediate neighbours?
"You see how immediate Zane’s property is to the wooden lock keeper’s shed.”
But Mr Collett said the protective membrane was a condition of a planning application approved by Spelthorne Borough Council and the risk test was based on assumption.
“The planning condition of such a membrane is standard for any property in a certain distance of a landfill site,” he said.
“The reason for that, frankly, is that it is cheaper to impose as a standard condition than to require testing of the land.
“It’s entirely uninteresting and non-sinister when you look into it.”
On the 28th April 2014 in an email sent by Surrey County Council it states "Think carefully about spreading panic among local residents" in an official statement they went on to say "Abbeyfields is a landscaped lake area as a result of mineral excavation and has never been a landfill site"
In a statement released after the pre-inquest review, Kye and Nicole said it was an important step towards revealing the truth about what they believed happened to Zane.
“We now hope for a full and proper investigation into his death,” they said.
“We are grateful to our legal team for their work so far. We should never lose sight that this is about a little seven-year-old boy, Zane Gbangbola, who died needlessly.
“The Truth About Zane campaign has been arguing that the care of people and public protection is paramount.
“Today Zane should be enjoying his last day of school before the summer holidays but instead we’ve had to endure a pre-inquest hearing into his death.”
Further pre-inquest review hearings were set for October 5 and December 7 this year.
A four-week inquest will open on January 18 2016, with the court not sitting on February 8 or 9 - the anniversary of Zane’s death.
On Tuesday 23rd June 2015, Vivienne Westwood accompanied Talk Fracking to the Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum Keynote Seminar on “Shale gas in the UK: regulation, addressing challenges, and energy security”, at Glaziers Hall, London
We wrote to Chris Smith three months ago asking that he honour his promise of transparency by publishing details of all communications and correspondence from initial meetings with any PR companies, prior to and since the establishment of the Task Force on Shale Gas. Chris and the Task Force failed to respond to our letter, so for three hours, we waited for him to turn up at Glaziers Hall for a face-to-face chat.
We were joined by Kye Gbangbola, the father of Zane Gbangbola, a seven-year-old boy who was tragically killed 16 months ago during floods in Surrey that caused toxic gases from a nearby landfill site to consume their home. Both Kye and Zane suffered cardiac arrest. Zane died later in hospital, while his father Kye remains paralysed from the waist down. At the time of this incident, Chris Smith was Chair of the Environment Agency but he failed to investigate the shady circumstances surrounding Zane’s death. Meanwhile, there is evidence that the Environment Agency were fully aware of the toxic landfill and had protected their own neighbouring property with a gas proof membrane.
Kye told us, “We are begging for answers and transparency about the death of our son. 16 months since Zane’s death, we still have no death certificate, just walls of silence from the authorities. We hope to ask Lord Smith why our beautiful boy had to die through the failure of those whose duty it was to protect him? It’s time for the truth to be revealed and for Chris Smith to come clean about what he knows about the circumstances surrounding Zane’s death.” Last week, Russell Brand came out in support of the ‘Truth About Zane’ campaign in the latest episode of his web series “The Trews”.
Talk Fracking collaborated with Vivienne Westwood’s Climate Revolution for their “Politicians Are Criminals” campaign, and we accused Lord Chris Smith of being guilty of the following criminal charges:
1. Corporate Manslaughter: Whilst head of the Environment Agency, willful failure to comply with the law and test land suspected as being contaminated, leading to the death of 7-year-old Zane Gbangbola.
2. Recklessly Causing Harm: He mis-directed the public with regard to a major hazardous incident that paralyzed Kye Gbangbola.
3. Breach of Duty of Care: He failed to tell the British public the truth about landfill or fulfill his required duty of care, covering up the truth about Zane’s death and failing to protect the local community in Thameside, Surrey from the dangers of poisonous landfill.
4. Conspiracy: Collusion with the fracking industry to water down environmental regulation. He neglected his responsibility to protect the environment when agreeing to intervene with Lancashire County Council over Cuadrilla’s planning permission and conspired to halve the consultation time for a fracking waste permit.
5. Deception & Fraud: Leading the Task Force on Shale Gas, an industry funded PR exercise, to mislead the public about the detrimental dangers of fracking, including cancer and birth defects.
By running away, Chris Smith is doing his very best to evade our line of enquiry and these very serious allegations of deception, but the British public deserve answers and we won’t just go away. Lord Smith is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and his The Task Force on Shale Gas is nothing more than an industry funded ‘astroturf’ PR exercise, masterminded by Edelman PR. Founder of Talk Fracking , Joseph Corre said “make no mistake, this man is guilty of fraud. There’s no independence here. It’s a PR ruse.”
Vivienne Westwood added, “This is the man, as Chair of the Environment Agency, that failed to investigate the shady circumstances surrounding the death of 7-year-old Zane. Chris Smith has convinced the government to rely on the findings of so-called independent reports into fracking, funded by the fracking industry.”
Please sign this petition to help Zane’s grieving parents get justice for the death of their son: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/call-for-a-public-debate-into-the-death-of-7-year-old-zane
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Russell Brand The Trews Published on 19 Jun 2015
In this episode of The Trews I discuss the the reality of human nature, the Truth About Zane campaign and review the Nightcrawler film.
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Produced directed & edited by Gareth Roy.
Trews Theme by The Rubberbandits
Thanks to Jimi Mackay: @jimimackay
and Urban Nerds: www.urbannerdscollective.com for our creative services
Rev Laurence Gamlen of Holy Trinity Church in Lyne has urged authorities to investigate landfill sites across Britain. By matt strudwick @GetSurrey
Landfill sites and flood water represents a ‘ticking time bomb’ to people living in Britain, a priest has said.
Rev Laurence Gamlen made the claims in a three minute video released by the family of seven-year-old Zane Gbangbola, who was killed on February 8 last year when flood water entered the basement of his Chertsey home.
Zane’s parents, Kye Gbangbola and Nicole Lawler, have always maintained he was killed by hydrogen cyanide poisoning – released through water which they believe had been contaminated by a former landfill site behind their Thameside home.
Rev Gamlen, of Holy Trinity Church in Lyne, where Zane was a member, has urged authorities to investigate landfill sites across Britain.
“The horrifying thing is, what happened to Zane can happen to any one of us,” he said.
“Eighty per cent of people live within 2km of landfill sites. This isn’t just a problem for them, or people here, it’s a problem for everyone everywhere within the UK. Landfill and flood water represent a ticking time bomb to the people of the UK.”
The poignant three minute video also features Zane’s father, Kye, as well as his eight-year-old friend, Dylan.
In the video, Kye is seen holding back tears as he pleads for answers and for a truthful and honest investigation into the death of his son.
He said: “Last year, on February 8, when the country was in flood, our basement was flooded and the fire brigade found a poisonous substance had infused our home.
“Unknown to us, flood water had passed through an unregulated landfill substance, which was found to be hydrogen cyanide. I was resuscitated and woke up in hospital to find my beautiful seven-year-old son, Zane – who I kissed and settled with mummy – had died.
“It was later deemed that I was paraplegic due to hydrogen cyanide poisoning.
“Zane does not have a death certificate or a cause of death, even though he was less than three metres from me.”
A petition calling for a public debate into his death, dismissed by Spelthorne Borough Council last December so as not to inference an upcoming inquest, has so far amassed more than 20,000 signatures.
A pre inquest review into Zane’s death is set to be heard on July 3 at Woking Coroner’s Court.
Zane's Shooting Star 8th February 2015 - As hundreds join Zane's grieving parents to send a loving message to Zane and pay tribute to a very special little boy, see the message they receive back as they let off the last lantern, a shooting star streaks through the sky. Many people were able to see this first hand and thankfully one captured this amazing event on camera. Please watch very carefully 2 minutes in.
27/04/2015: Dame Vivienne Westwood joined Talk Fracking for the launch of our new billboard, cradling a ‘fracked baby of the future’ and a picture of Zane at Westminster Bridge, London. The impacts of fracking are harmful to our health, the economy and our environment, but our government continues to ignore the mountain of evidence.
The mock election billboard is an adaptation of the Conservative Party’s campaign billboard that read, “Let’s stay on the road to a stronger economy.” Our re-working depicts the prospective devastation we face should we stay on this dangerous road “to a fracked future” that will lead to the bleak realities of “Catastrophic climate change. Birth defects. Energy insecurity. Toxic legacy. With no democratic mandate.”
Is this the most toxic cover-up of them all? Bombshell fire service logs show they warned police of cyanide at home of boy poisoned to death in floods... So why DID detectives shift blame to a faulty pump?
It was the most heartbreaking tragedy of the floods that wreaked havoc around Britain last year.
Little Zane Gbangbola died at home – in the middle of the night – after being poisoned by gas.
For months after his death, police and other official agencies ruled out fears that the deadly fumes had come from a nearby landfill site.
Instead, they insisted carbon monoxide from a faulty pump hired by his family had caused his death.
But now The Mail on Sunday can reveal the damning evidence that proves the authorities have known for 14 months that hydrogen cyanide gas capable of killing Zane had leaked into the family's home as it was engulfed by floodwater.
The leaked official records reveal for the first time:
Last night, claims of a cover-up over Zane's death by police, the Environment Agency, Public Health England and local authorities intensified when the documents uncovered by the MoS also revealed no traces of carbon monoxide had been detected at the home in Chertsey, Surrey.
The witness statements, marked restricted and confidential, were provided to police by senior fire officers the day after they attended the scene of the tragedy on February 8 last year.
But Zane's grieving parents Kye and Nicole Gbangbola have faced a 'wall of silence', leading to claims of a cover-up while public agencies repeatedly insisted the boy died from carbon monoxide poisoning and that there was no risk to the wider public.
Local residents accused the authorities of lying and putting lives at risk. The Gbangbolas' neighbour, Paul Marsden, 53, said last night: 'It is a disgrace that the authorities have not warned people about the dangers lurking in this land near our homes.
'We have said all along that they found hydrogen cyanide at Kye and Nicole's house and here is the proof.'
Just hours after the tragedy, despite the fact that police were in constant communication with fire chiefs, Surrey Police Chief Superintendent Dave Miller declared that landfill gases were 'not one of our lines of inquiry' into Zane's death.
The force spent the next 11 months investigating carbon monoxide poisoning as the cause, before dropping its case in January on advice from the Crown Prosecution Service that there was no case to answer in relation to a hired petrol-powered pump in the family's home which they insist was never switched on.
Nicole and Kye Gbangbola also needed hospital treatment because of hydrogen cyanide exposure on the night of their son's death.
Kye, 48, has been permanently paralysed from the waist down because of the gas, which was used to murder millions in the Nazi death camps.
The couple have struggled for answers from the police, Environment Agency, Public Health England and councils ever since – and are still waiting for a coroner's inquest to be held because of the delays caused by the long-running police investigation.
As we were about to leave the premises, one of the gas detectors went into an amber alarm indicating hydrogen cyanide had been detected at levels of ten parts per million... We left immediately
Commanding officer's statement
The Mail on Sunday has led the way in covering the tragic case – but has been stonewalled at every turn.
Now this newspaper has seen leaked statements from police interviews with senior firefighters who were among the first of dozens of emergency personnel on the scene when Zane was rushed to hospital.
The highly experienced officers serve with Surrey Fire and Rescue Service's Detection Identification and Monitoring team, which is called in to investigate gases.
A commanding officer's statement to police says: 'As we were about to leave the premises, one of the gas detectors went into an amber alarm indicating hydrogen cyanide had been detected at levels of ten parts per million. We left immediately.'
The officer says the level of gas in the house is considered dangerous if inhaled for more than 15 minutes. An immediately fatal concentration is 50 parts per million.
The reading was taken at 7.29am – four hours after Zane's mother found him unconscious in a bedroom above the hallway and rang 999.
After Zane was found, emergency services had opened doors and windows to ventilate the property for several hours.
The firefighters double-checked their equipment and re-entered the house on two more occasions to confirm that hydrogen cyanide was in the property at 'concentrated levels', according to their incident log. It records the gas being detected at 7.47am and 8.19am.
Neighbour Mr Marsden recalled seeing the firefighters 'ducking in and out of the house in breathing apparatus.'
He said: 'The fire chief said to me there was hydrogen cyanide. I asked if it was ground gases and he said that was right and everyone will have to go to hospital.'
Another statement seen by this newspaper says the gas detectors used by the fire service had been tested and certified as working correctly four days before Zane's death.
The Gbangbolas said last night that they could not comment on the fire service documents for legal reasons ahead of Zane's inquest, due to be held later this year.
A close family friend said: 'The truth is out – they have been gassed. Kye and Nicole are very angry.'
Dr Ivan Vince, an expert in landfill gases, said last night that it was possible the cyanide gas had leached from the landfill site.
He added: 'If this was an old unregulated tip, it could well be that cyanides were dumped many years ago. If there is acid spilt at the site, and then the water came out due to the flooding, then that would bring acid to the cyanide and release hydrogen cyanide.'
This newspaper asked Surrey Police why the force had not disclosed that it knew hydrogen cyanide had been detected in the family's home hours after Zane had died. We also asked why the force spent 11 months investigating the carbon monoxide theory.
A spokesman did not answer those questions but said in a statement: 'In February 2014, the post mortem examination into Zane's death proved inconclusive.
'Further thorough and extensive tests were completed. The pathologist gave a result of carbon monoxide intoxication.'
The police, Environment Agency, Public Health England, Surrey Fire Service, Surrey County Council and Spelthorne Borough Council all said they could not comment in detail ahead of the coroner's inquest.
A spokeswoman for Spelthorne council said: 'We are aware it is the family's belief that there is a link between the landfill close to their home and the tragic death of their son.
'However, based on current information, we do not believe there is any evidence of a causal link.'
Zane’s parents Nicole and Kye say a damning dossier of council evidence indicates their boy was killed by hydrogen cyanide fumes from a flooded lake
Nicole, 37, said: “We have spent 12 months trying to get these documents out of the council but we were led to believe they did not exist.
"We’ve spent all this time fighting for justice for our son, and been made to feel we were looking for something that wasn’t there – just parents blinded by grief.
“But these documents prove not only did the council know about the risks of a landfill site only yards behind our home, and the home of other residents, but they tested the land, found it was highly contaminated, but then decided not to tell the people living next door.
“It is either sheer incompetence or a complete cover-up. Either way, we want heads to roll.”
Zane was overcome by fumes in February 2014 as he slept upstairs while floodwater caused by massive rainfall filled the basement of the family home in Chertsey, Surrey.
The whole family was rushed to hospital but Zane could not be resuscitated. Nicole and Kye, 49, were both diagnosed with hydrogen cyanide poisoning, which has left company director Kye paralysed from the waist down.
But a pathologist’s report blamed Zane’s death on carbon monoxide.
The couple have spent a year seeking answers from Spelthorne Borough Council and the Environment Agency.
They claim the new report from the council proves Zane was also poisoned by hydrogen cyanide and that the council KNEW the old landfill site was a risk to residents but did nothing about it.
Hydrogen cyanide has long been linked to old landfill sites.
But Nicole and Kye had no idea they were near such a site because it didn’t show up in any of the searches when they bought their house in 2004.
Nicole said: “The local authority chose not to warn us about the risks. If they had just been honest, Zane would still be alive.
"They and the Environment Agency had many opportunities to tell us the land was contaminated and we were at risk.”
The council’s dossier of evidence details how the 135-acre site was used for gravel excavation then filled with building waste.
In April 2010, the Environment Agency commissioned a report into the land and the gravel-pit lake as a cottage for its own staff was being built next door to Zane’s home.
Engineers Peter Brett Associates reported: “The landfill site to the east of the site presents a possible current source of landfill gas.”
Olivia Flint, the council’s Contaminated Land Officer, “confirmed landfilling had taken place” adding: “The potential for contamination to be present in the immediate vicinity of the east of the site is considered to be high.”
Potential contaminants were listed as carbon dioxide and methane which, when mixed with water, can form hydrogen cyanide.
The report estimated the health risk as “Moderate/Low” and recommended action to make the cottage safe from land gases. But the council decided not to take up suggested work to make the site safer.
Another report in 2005 commissioned by land owner Brett Aggregates detailed how tests showed a high concentration of gases and toxins but it was not made public.
A statement from Spelthorne Council denied advising against testing the site to save money, adding: “The council has no evidence to suggest there is a link between this tragic death and the landfill.
“Extensive research has been done by the council into the historical use of land close to the Gbangbola home. The land is not contaminated as defined by the relevant legislation.”
The statement added the cause of death will be “for the coroner to determine” at an inquest.
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