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Harbin on first day of water cut-off
www.chinaview.cn 2005-11-23 22:59:54

    HARBIN, Nov. 23 (Xinhuanet) -- Liu Zhenying, a retiree of a technical institute Wednesday embarked on a morning flight with her husband and seven-year-old grandson for Shanghai to escape the dearth of water in the country's northernmost city.

    But most of 3.8 million citizens in Harbin prefer staying to grapple with water supply suspension, which was announced by the city government as early as Monday in a public statement.

    The city cut off water supply at wee hours Wednesday for the fear of contamination of the Songhua River, its main source of drinking water supply. The water supply suspension will be in effect for the next three days.

    Ding Rihua, a native of Harbin hoarded eight boxes of bottled mineral waters, three packages of boxed milk, 30 cans of fast porridge, 50 pieces of streamed bread, a portable lamp and bunchesof batteries in a spree purchase Monday afternoon.

    However, her panic was eased on the first of the city's execution of water supply suspension. In a tour of a supermarket within the reach of her home, she saw porters busy unloading piles of bottled water boxes from a big van.

    "Food and beverages are full-packed on supermarket shelves. It seems that there is no need to worry about food and drinking water shortage," said Ding.

    Her worries were further dispelled, when she saw water running off from taps at her house. The water supply works in the city resumed once interrupted tap water supply at 12:00 Wednesday temporarily, after the official source confirmed the exact time for the arrival of chemical wastes derived from a blast at the Jilin Petroleum and Chemical Company located in the upper reaches of the Songhua River as of Thursday morning.

    "As the exact time for the pollutants to reach the city's drinking water intake spot has been confirmed, we hoped citizens could take time to store as much water as possible ahead of the due water cut-off," said a company executive, who preferred to be anonymous.

    He said drinking water was being pumped into residents' homes with normal daily supply amount. And the company would await the government's order to cut off water supply.

    Meanwhile, the provincial capital has diverted about 16,000 tons of barreled water from other cities in the province. Shenyang, the capital city of Liaoning Province has loaded 1,388 tons of purified water on train wagons bound for Harbin.

    In an emergency water supplement mechanism, the city government Wednesday began bailing groundwater through 918 wells. It also planned to dig 100 more wells to tap groundwater. So far, 55 such wells have been sunk, and they are able to add 40,000 tons of clean water daily in the city.

    The city's normal water consumption for residential use is estimated at 700,000 tons a day, noted Liu Yuzhu, a senior executive manager of the Harbin Water Supply and Drainage Group. Co. Ltd., saying that a sizeable proportion of the water supply was consumed by such commercial service sectors, such as car washing and bathing, which have been temporarily closed on the order of the government. Water for domestic use use has been placed as priority by the government.

    Before the execution of water stoppage at wee hours Wednesday,said Liu, 90 percent of local residents stored up water enough for three-day use. The total amount of water stored by local residents is estimated at 300,000 tons, according to the company's research.

    Luan Xizhong, manager of Walmart Northeast China Region, said that frenzy shoppers nearly emptied Walmart's chainstore located in Zhongshan Avenue in downtown Harbin two days ago. But now it has been refilled with sufficient food and beverage stuff.

    "Our order of 30,000 boxes of bottled mineral water arrived today , and there is no need for buying spree," Luan told Xinhua.

    But there are some stores speculating on the public fears of water shortage.

    A student with the Harbin Industrial University told Xinhua that some stores are raising prices of mineral water. "The price of a dozen bottles of a brand mineral water rose from 12 yuan (1.5 US dollars) to over 20 yuan (2.5 US dollars) in two days," said Zhao Yingqiang, a Harbin resident.

    In response to the public complaint, Wang Lianjia, an official of provincial pricing authorities, said that price rises were separated cases. As long as the government ensures sufficient market supply of drinking water, the price would ebb and return tothe normal level in a couple of days.

    As part of its bid to stabilize the market price of drinking water, the municipal government has allocated 5 million yuan (625,000 US dollars) to set up five water stations in the city to provide barreled water at standard market price.

    Li Gang, a Harbin resident, seen standing in a line outside a public toilet, told Xinhua his family members would use the publictoilet in the next few days so as to save water for toilet flushing.

    "It is not a big problem for just a few days and it is of little troubles in daily life," he said. Enditem

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