BEIJING, Nov. 25 -- About 100 tons of dangerous
chemicals equivalent to 10 tanker-truck loads was spewed into the Songhua River,
which supplies water to Harbin, the nation's environment watchdog disclosed
|A stretch of potentially lethal polluted
river water headed towards one of China's biggest cities on Thursday after
an explosion at a petrochemical plant, November 24 2005. [newsphoto]
Zhang Lijun, vice-minister of the State Environmental
Protection Administration (SEPA), told a press conference in Beijing that Jilin
Petrochemical Corporation, a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation
(CNPC), "should be responsible" for the leak of benzene and its derivatives
following an explosion at a chemical plant.
The plant, on the upper reaches of the river in Jilin
Province, earlier denied any connection between the contaminated water and the
explosion on November 13, which left a trail of dead fish.
But Jilin Vice-Governor Jiao Zhengzhong, also Party
secretary of Jilin city, apologized to the 3.8 million residents of Harbin on
Wednesday during a visit there. He brought 71 tons of mineral water with him.
"We will work with the Heilongjiang provincial government to quickly investigate
the incident," Jiao said.
CNPC also apologized to Heilongjiang people
Water supply has been suspended in Harbin since
Tuesday midnight and the city government is keeping a close watch on an
80-kilometre swathe of polluted water in the Songhua which flowed into the city
early yesterday morning.
"We know where the toxic water is and how its density
changes," said Li Weixiang, director of the Heilongjiang Provincial Environment
The slick, flowing at about 2 kilometres an hour, is
expected to pass the city by Saturday morning.
The Harbin Water Purification Plant said it could
restart water supply on Sunday, Xinhua reported.
Heilongjiang Governor Zhang Zuoji earlier vowed to
"drink the first mouthful of water once the supply is resumed" to ease people's
worry about water quality.
On the second day of the water-supply suspension,
Harbin residents found it much easier to buy bottled water, which was readily
available in shops and supermarkets.
"Now it is totally unnecessary to worry about buying
water," said Teng Song, a postgraduate student of Harbin Institute of
The city has drilled 55 wells in three days, and more
will be dug, the government said on its website.
But many people still chose to leave the city.
For the fourth day in a row, sales of air and rail
tickets remained brisk as many were sending the elderly and the young to other
A saleswoman in Harbin North Ticket Centre, one of
the largest in the city, told China Daily there was strong demand with tickets
to Guangzhou and Shanghai sold out for yesterday.
Liu Yunlong, a businessman, said he would send his
two sons to Shenyang, capital of Northeast China's Liaoning Province. "I can't
afford to let anything happen to my children," he said.
On the international front, China has informed Russia
of the situation in the Songhua River which flows into the neighbouring country
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a press briefing in Beijing
"China attaches great importance to the potential
impact and harm caused by the pollution on Russia," he said, adding that Russia
appreciated the information.
The Songhua is a tributary of the Heilong River
(called Amur River in Russia).
(Source: China Daily)