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China Arrests 12 in Blast Investigation

A People's Liberation Army soldier of its anti-chemical warfare corps in a protection suit sprays a liquid on debris at the site of last week's blasts in Tianjin, China, Aug. 21, 2015.

Chinese police have arrested 12 suspects said to be involved in the massive explosions at a warehouse in the port city of Tianjin, according to state media, as officials raised the death toll from the blasts.

Among those arrested were Yu Xuewei and Dong Shexuan, the two top shareholders of Ruihai International Logistics, which owned the Tianjin warehouse where the explosion occurred, Xinhua said Thursday.

State media had previously published confessions from the two well-connected businessmen, who were reported to have used their relationships with local officials to obtain apparently fraudulent safety licenses.

Three Ruihai deputy general managers were also arrested, according to Xinhua. It did not give the names of the others detained.

"The police said the company and the detainees were suspected of illegally storing dangerous chemicals," the report said, adding that another company - Tianjin Zhongbin Haisheng - is suspected of illegally helping Ruihai acquire safety evaluation papers.

Also Thursday, Xinhua reported that 11 officials and executives in Tianjin port executives are being probed for dereliction of duty and abuse of power. "The prosecuted officials included Wu Dai, head of Tianjin Municipal Transportation Commission, and Zheng Qingyue, president of Tianjin Port Holdings Co," Xinhua said.

Beijing officials on Thursday raised the death toll from the early August blasts from 139 to 145, according to Xinhua. It said that 28 people remain missing.

The explosions devastated a wide swath of the port area, were triggered by a fire and a toxic brew of volatile chemicals. Investigators are trying to figure out how the warehouse was allowed to store such dangerous chemicals so close to residences, in violation of safety standards.

The incident is raising questions about whether other facilities are not adhering to proper safety standards, and whether China's well-documented government corruption is helping lead to those violations.