November 9, 2016 / 11:42 AM / 2 years ago

China jails 49 over Tianjin blast that killed 165

People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers of the anti-chemical warfare corps in protection suits work next to excavators cleaning up the debris at the site of last week's blasts in Binhai new district of Tianjin, China, August 21, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese court has jailed 25 government officials and 24 company managers over a series of explosions in the port city of Tianjin that killed more than 165 people last year, state-owned Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday.

The punishments range from a 1-1/2 year jail term to a suspended death sentence, which is generally commuted to life in prison.

The massive explosions in August 2015 at a chemical warehouse in Tianjin caused losses estimated at more than $1 billion and sparked anger that the structure had been built so close to residential areas.

A government report on the disaster blamed the ignition of hazardous materials that had been improperly or illegally stored at the site.

A Tianjin court handed the harshest sentence to the chairman of Tianjin Ruihai International Logistics Co Ltd, which operated the facility, for crimes ranging from the illegal storage of dangerous substances to bribery.

In February, the government said it detained 49 people in connection with the blast.

Reporting by Jake Spring; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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