By Ian Bush

By Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Last week’s explosions and fire in Tianjin, China have killed more than 100 people. Rescuers are still looking for survivors of Wednesday’s disaster in that port city, and Philadelphia is standing by to help in the aftermath.

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“The moment that Mayor Nutter heard, he sent a letter to Mayor Huang [Xingguo], whom he’d met,” says Nancy Gilboy, president and CEO of Citizen Diplomacy International.
“We’re waiting to see where they need help, because I’ve had a lot of people come to me and say they’d really like to help raise funds for this.”

For 35 years, Philadelphia and Tianjin have been official Sister Cities, a Cold War-era designation that stuck; today, it promises benefits to twinned governments and citizens alike. In the case of Philadelphia-Tianjin, Chinese students get scholarships to attend universities like Temple and Drexel, and Philadelphia businesses explore overseas opportunities.

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“In 2012, when Mayor Nutter went to Tianjin, it was the first official visit by a Philadelphia mayor,” says Gilboy. “We created a sister city scholarship at Drexel, Temple, Moore College of Art, Arcadia, and a lot of schools in the region. We have monthly receptions where the students come or if they have problems they feel free to call us. We’ve gotten to know them well, and we care about them.”

Philadelphia has Tianjin to thank for the Friendship Gate, the 40-foot-high landmark at 10th and Arch Streets in Chinatown, which was built by Chinese artisans in 1983. They returned seven years ago to restore it to glory, using paint made from pig’s blood — a traditional Chinese primer, though these gallons were provided by Dietz & Watson and kept stored in Philadelphia’s morgue.

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“They wanted to use the authentic material they used in China,” explains Gilboy. “We had to get tung oil; it had to be burned in an open cauldron out in the field. And now I think it’s more beautiful than it ever was. The colors are so vibrant, and it really is a wonderful testament to the friendship between our two cities.”