TIANJIN, China — A Washington man who captured spectacular footage of the massive explosions that devastated the Chinese city of Tianjin described the blast as akin to "a small nuclear bomb."
Daniel van Duren, 40, told NBC News he was trying to catch a glimpse of the Perseid meteor shower from his 34-story apartment building when the disaster unfolded, lighting up the night sky.
“It was incredible, we didn’t know what was happening … then the power went out to our building,” he recalled.
His cellphone video captured an initial explosion followed by at least one gigantic blast that sent debris flying through the air like fireworks.
Van Duren and his girlfriend, Ying, scrambled for safety from the darkened apartment building, which is about one mile from the scene of the explosions which ripped through a warehouse containing “dangerous goods” at 11:30 p.m. local time (11:30 a.m. ET) Wednesday.
"It rocked the whole building ... you could feel the blast wave hit us," he said. "There was so much debris in the cloud ... that [it] actually lit on fire. It was just monumental...I thought it was a small nuclear bomb going off on my face, that is what it looked like."
At least 50 people, including 17 firefighters, were killed and more than 700 hospitalized.
Early Friday, some 31 hours after the disaster, a 19-year-old firefighter was rescued from the blast site.
Shanshan Dong, Laura Saravia and Alastair Jamieson reported from London.