The disaster has sent a noxious plume floating over the sea.

Remains of a building and new cars are left burned after an explosion at a warehouse in northeastern China's Tianjin municipality. (Ng Han Guan/AP)

From the ground, the deadly blast on Wednesday at a Chinese warehouse for hazardous chemicals looked like nuclear armageddon. From space, the disaster remains visible in the form of a nasty, brownish vapor ghosting across the Bohai Sea.

NASA’s Terra satellite picked up on the escaping cloud on Thursday, the same day Chinese President Xi Jinping swore to investigate the ground-shaking eruption in Tianjin. (The latest casualty count is more than 50 dead and hundreds in the hospital.) “The source of the smoke appears to be industrial fires associated with two massive explosions” at the Tianjin port, writes the space agency.

Later that afternoon, the Aqua satellite passed over the area and captured the cloud farther southeast. The trails of gray smoke in both images probably originated from wildfires, says NASA:

Japan’s Himawari-8 weather satellite also observed the movement of the mud-colored miasma:

The Chinese authorities are still trying to figure out what caused the blast. There is reportedly a “chemical odor” lingering in the air, and military materials specialists are working to remove hazardous substances like sodium cyanide from the scene, according to the BBC.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    Berlin Builds an Arsenal of Ideas to Stage a Housing Revolution

    The proposals might seem radical—from banning huge corporate landlords to freezing rents for five years—but polls show the public is ready for something dramatic.

  2. Design

    A History of the American Public Library

    A visual exploration of how a critical piece of social infrastructure came to be.

  3. Maps

    Mapping the Growing Gap Between Job Seekers and Employers

    Mapping job openings with available employees in major U.S. cities reveals a striking spatial mismatch, according to a new Urban Institute report.

  4. Design

    There’s a Tile Theft Epidemic in Lisbon

    With a single azulejo fetching hundreds of euros at the city’s more reputable antique stores, these tiles, sitting there out in the open, are easy pickings.

  5. A sanitation employee helps homeless people with their possessions in New Orleans in October 2017.
    Equity

    Because of Louisiana, the Minimum Wage in New Orleans Is a Poverty Wage

    Around the World Day of Social Justice, we should consider why cities pay poverty wages, and why 28 states can preempt local efforts to raise the minimum wage.