Explosion in Tianjin, China Causes Supercomputer Shutdown

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When a warehouse full of explosives blew up in a massive fireball in Tianjin, China on Wednesday, the technicians supervising the Tianhe-1A supercomputer felt the ground shake violently even though they were in a hardened facility more than a kilometer away from Wednesday’s explosion. Although the supercomputer continued to run without interruption in its secure building, the supervisors of the facility eventually decided to shut down the machine as a precaution. The statement from China’s Xinhua news agency also noted that the facility’s database was undamaged.

Of note, the huge warehouse blast in Tianjin resulted in the deaths of at least 56 people and more than 700 people were hospitalized. Locals report that many hundreds of others suffered minor injuries in the explosion, the causes of which are still under investigation.

On a historical note, the Tianhe-1A was known the world’s fastest supercomputer in 2010, but it has now been surpassed by faster machines, including another machine designed in China. The Tianhe-1a is only the 24th fastest supercomputer today, based on the top 500 supercomputing list rankings.

Notable damage to China’s Tianhe-1A supercomputer facility

Xinhua’s statement pointed out that the blast on Wednesday night had done significant damage to a number of the facilities where Tianhe-1A is housed (the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin). The external windows of the building where the device is housed were shattered, and ceilings collapsed in some buildings in the center. A number of injuries were reported.

Calls to the supercomputing center by media representatives were not answered on Friday, and the website has been offline for a few hours.

The rapidly growing coastal city of Tianjin is only about 100 miles away from Beijing. The explosion on Wednesday happened in the Binhai new district, an special economic zone that is home to several global electronics manufacturing firms such as Samsung, Foxconn Technology Group and Lenovo. None of the companies anticipate significant interruptions to their operations because of the explosion.

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