Chinese police announced the arrest of 12 people suspected of involvement in explosions that killed at least 145 people in the port city of Tianjin earlier this month, state media reported Thursday. Several government officials from agencies who oversee transportation and work safety were detained.
Xinhua reported that the 12 suspects detained by police worked for Ruihai International Logistics, the company that owned a warehouse allegedly storing dangerous chemicals that exploded Aug. 12. Those arrested include the company's chairman, vice chairman and three deputy general managers.
In addition, prosecutors also criminally detained 11 senior government officials from bodies including the transport ministry, Tianjin’s municipal government and its port authority, for their alleged roles leading up to the blasts. The officials are being probed on suspicion of "dereliction of duty" and "abuse of power," according to a statement from the Supreme People's Procuratorate, cited by Xinhua.
The arrests come a day after the head of China's work safety watchdog agency was fired. Yang Dongliang, director and Communist Party chief of the State Administration of Work Safety, was fired for "suspected severe violation of discipline and the law." The phrase is generally used by the ruling party as a euphemism for corruption, Agence France-Presse reported.
Public anger over lax safety standards has spurred government action in China in recent years. Incidents ranging from train crashes to poisoned baby formula have shaken public confidence in many domestic industries, and in government supervision. President Xi Jinping has vowed to punish those responsible.
According to a report from CCTV Thursday, the death toll from the blasts has risen to 145 -- about half of whom were firemen -- while 28 are still unaccounted for.