Army stands ready to decontaminate site of Hanoi warehouse fire

By Hoang Thuy   September 9, 2019 | 07:51 pm PT
Army stands ready to decontaminate site of Hanoi warehouse fire
Staff from the Military Institute of Environment and Chemistry collects dust samples from the area surrounding the burnt Rang Dong light bulb warehouse in Hanoi, September 5, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Thuy.
The chemical division of the Vietnamese army is prepared to decontaminate the Rang Dong warehouse fire site, and is waiting for Hanoi’s response.

The Military Institute of Environment and Chemistry under the Chemical Division has finished collecting samples, conducting tests and drafting a decontamination plan, the results of which were submitted to Minister of National Defense Ngo Xuan Lich Monday.

"With the current force, the Chemical Division is capable of completely removing toxic substances from the area surrounding the burnt site of the Rang Dong warehouse," said Major General Le Manh Tien, a spokesman of the National Committee for Incident, Natural Disaster Response and Search and Rescue.

He added that the military had already decontaminated other chemical pollutions in the past, with the latest being an incident in which more than 30 tons of chemicals were spilled into the sea.

The military and the committee, however, have yet to receive Hanoi's request for assistance to decontaminate, Tien said.

He said that under the government’s decentralization approach, the Hanoi People's Committee must be in charge of the decontamination, and other forces can only provide assistance.

Tien's committee therefore has requested that its Hanoi branch provide a report on the chemical pollution situation following the Rang Dong light bulb warehouse fire, and proposed that Hanoi authorities request the Chemical Division's participation in decontaminating the site.

However, Hanoi Chairman Nguyen Duc Chung told VnExpress that they had already requested the military's assistance in handling the environmental pollution caused by the warehouse fire last Thursday.

A five-hour blaze that started at 6 p.m. on August 28 destroyed a third of the inventory at the 6,000-square-meter warehouse belonging to the Rang Dong Light Source and Vacuum Flask JSC in Thanh Xuan Trung Ward in the southwestern Thanh Xuan District.

Initial investigations show that the cause of the fire stemmed from storage procedures and there was "no sign of sabotage," Chung said. The exact cause is yet to be determined.

The Vietnam Environment Administration confirmed Sunday that 15.2-27.2 kilograms of mercury have been released into the environment following the fire.

Residents near the fire had started moving out of their homes the following day due to health concerns. Several people reported unusual fatigue and stinging eyes.

Students abstain

Ha Dinh Elementary School, which lies 550 meters (1,800 feet) from the warehouse, reported that 320 out of its 1,310 students were absent on Monday, including 129 students on health concerns, 83 because they moved out and 92 due to sickness.

Representatives of the students' parents have requested that their children be given health checks and be allowed to stay away from school for a week. While district authorities have arranged for the students to receive free health checks, the parents' request for leave was denied because the school was deemed to be outside the polluted area.

Rang Dong, a leading manufacturer of lighting products and equipment, has estimated its own loss from the fire at VN150 billion ($6.4 million).

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