Foreign companies around Tianjin blast suspend operations

Residents, some wearing masks, hold banners and placards as they stage a protest outside a hotel where officials held daily media conferences in northeastern China's Tianjin municipality Monday, Aug. 17, 2015. About a hundred people whose residences were damaged in the massive Tianjin blasts gathered Monday for a protest to demand compensation from the government. (AP Photo/Paul Traynor)

SHANGHAI (AP) — Foreign companies have suspended operations around the Tianjin port as officials scramble to contain the toxic fallout of last week’s deadly chemical explosions.

Toyota, which has operations near the evacuation zone around the blast, said it had suspended three production lines, which account for over half of its China capacity, through Wednesday. Impacted models include the Crown, Reiz, Corolla, Vios and the Corolla EX, largely for the domestic market.

Panasonic, which has a product development center 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the blast site, kept its offices closed Monday, out of concern for employee safety. A spokeswoman said executives were still evaluating whether to open the office Tuesday.

Hong Kong-listed logistics company Singamas Container Holdings, which has two depots close to the blast, told the stock exchange Monday that it had suspended operations at the site and lost contact with one employee. The filing said the company was still evaluating losses, but did not anticipate a material impact on business.

U.S. farm equipment maker Deere & Co. also reportedly suspended its Tianjin operations. Employees from the company’s Beijing office refused to comment Monday.

Automakers have been hit hard because Tianjin is one of China’s major ports for car imports. Thousands of Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai and Renault cars, most of them pricey imports, parked on lots near the blast were decimated.

Volkswagen said it had lost around 2,700 vehicles, including New Beetle, Golf and Tiguan models. Renault said 1,500 Koleos SUVs were damaged. Hyundai said it had around 4,000 vehicles, mostly high-end cars like Equus and Genesis, parked at the site. The companies said they were still assessing the economic value of those losses.

The Tianjin Maritime Bureau said Monday that 85 ships had been delayed or canceled, but that port traffic is now at normal

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Associated Press researcher Fu Ting contributed to this report.

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