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China shutters 50 websites for spreading explosion 'rumours'

The official line is 112 dead, 95 missing. Sites with other numbers aren't online any more

China's Cyberspace Administration has taken down 50 web sites for reporting “rumours” on the Tianjin explosions.

State organ Xinhua now reports that 112 people are confirmed dead, with another 95 missing, after last week's explosions in a dangerous good warehouse.

Chinese media that have reported different versions of events have been accused of spreading “rumours” that “manufacture panic … resulting in adverse social panic” by the Cyberspace Adminstration, which says, after a shove through some online translate-o-tronic machinery, that 32 web sites have been shut down for a month for their sins. Another 18 sites have had their licences revoked. 360 social media accounts have been blocked.

Xinhua's report about the bans runs under the cheery headline “Websites punished for spreading rumors about Tianjin blasts”.

China's not keen on un-vetted bad news reaching the public, so the term “rumours” has a strong negative connotation. For now, the official line about the Tianjin blasts, delivered by none other than President Xi Jinping, is that they represent a terrible failure of workplace safety. Officials are also starting to suggest the warehouse stored rather more dangerous material than it was permitted to handle, a suggestion that connotes corruption may have had a role in the incident. President Xi is crusading against corruption at all levels of Chinese society.

Tianjin residents who live within a three kilometre radius of the blast zone, meanwhile, have been evacuated due to fears that the explosion involved toxic quantities of sodium cyanide. China's National Supercomputer Centre at Tianjin is two kilometres from the blast zone. The Centre's Tianhe-1 supercomputer was taken offline on the day of the blast. It's unclear if it is has returned to work, but with the three kilometre exclusion zone in operation it seems set to remain offline for some time. ®

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