Tianjin blast: CNN journalist accosted by angry relatives of injured for filming outside hospital

Locals surrounded the reporter shouting 'stop the foreigners'

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A CNN journalist reporting on the huge warehouse fire in the Chinese port city of Tianjin has been accosted by angry locals outside a hospital.

Will Ripley was speaking live to the studio via Skype on his mobile phone when he was approached by an increasingly irate group of men, shouting over and appearing to shove the reporter.

The incident, broadcast on CNN, was captured by Ripley’s increasingly shaky camerawork before the feed went black and the network cut back to the studio.

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CNN is believed to have initially described the incident as Ripley getting “shut down by officials” outside the hospital in Tianjin, where he was describing the aftermath of a series of explosions that have killed at least 50 people and injured more than 700.

That description was later changed to Ripley getting “swarmed by distraught survivors” in an online CNN posting headlined “Emotions run high at Chinese hospital after blasts”.

Ripley himself wrote on Twitter that tempers were “obviously running high after an awful night in #Tianjin”. He added: “I'm fine. A lot of people here aren't.”

He also retweeted New York Times reporter Andrew Jacobs, who said “grief-stricken relatives inexplicitly [sic] attack foreign journalists shouting ‘stop the foreigners from reporting’”.

Chinese social media users painted a different picture, however. In postings on Weibo and YouTube, they suggested Ripley had tried to sneak inside the hospital with a selfie-stick to “take pics of the dead”.

A version of the footage posted was also posted online with a caption saying that the people were shouting “sorrow”, and accused CNN of sending “one unprofessional journalist to try to break into the hospital with only an iPhone for equipment”.

In response, Jacobs described this as a “complete fabrication”, saying the tussle was sparked by a man who was angry at his grieving friend being filmed.

Cars burning during the blaze in Tianjin

View of the destruction after explosions in the port area of Tianjin, northern China,

Excavators work near the site of the explosions at the Binhai new district, Tianji

Damaged cars are seen near the site of explosions at the Binhai new district in Tianjin

The fire in Tianjin was mostly under control by mid-afternoon on Thursday, local time, when local government officials suspended the work of firefighters so that chemical experts could examine the site.

The safety of emergency workers at the scene has become an increasingly contentious point among Chinese social media posts, with at least 12 of those killed in the blasts confirmed to be firefighters.

One of the most widely-shared images on Weibo has been one showing a firefighter in orange walking towards a fire as everyone else runs away.