- 2005 Jilin chemical plant explosions
The Jilin chemical plant explosions were a series of explosions which occurred on
November 13 2005, in the No.101 Petrochemical Plant in Jilin City, JilinProvince, China, over the period of an hour. The explosions killed six, injured dozens, and caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.
The blasts created an 80 km long toxic slick in the
Songhua River, a tributaryof the Amur. The slick, predominantly made up of benzeneand nitrobenzene, passed through the AmurRiver over subsequent weeks.
The cause of the blasts was initially determined two days after the blast: the accident site is a nitration unit for
anilineequipment. T-102 tower jammed up but was not handled properly, hence the blastscite news | url = http://english.people.com.cn/200511/15/eng20051115_221428.html | title = Five dead, one missing, nearly 70 injured after chemical plant blasts | publisher = People's Daily Online | date = 2005-11-15] The blasts were so powerful that they shattered windows at least 100 to 200 meters away from the scene of the explosions. At least 70 people have been injured and six were killed.cite news| title = Chemical plant explosion in China: one confirmed dead | url = http://newsfromrussia.com/world/2005/11/14/67613.html | publisher = Pravda | date = 14 November 2005] The fires were finally put out early in the morning of November 14. Over 10,000 people were evacuated from the area, including local residents and students at the north campus of Beihua Universityand Jilin Institute of Chemical Technologycite news| title= 6 missing, 70 wounded in chemical plant blasts | publisher =Xinhua | url = http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2005-11/13/content_3775869.htm | date = 13 November 2005] , for fear of further explosions and contamination with harmful chemicals. The CNPC, which owns the company in charge of the factory, Jilin Petrochemical Corporation, has asked senior officials to investigate the cause of the incidents.cite news | title= China's CNPC investigating cause of blasts at Jilin chemical unit | url = http://www.forbes.com/business/feeds/afx/2005/11/13/afx2333504.html | publisher = Forbes | date= 13 November 2005] The explosions are not thought to be related to terrorism, and the company told a press conference that they had occurred as a result of a chemical blockage that had gone unfixed.cite news | url = http://english.cctv.com/program/bizchina/20051114/101305.shtml | title = Company admit fault in chemical blast | work = cctv.com | date = 2005-11-14]
The municipal government asked hotels and restaurants in the city to provide rooms for the evacuated people. Taxi companies also aided in the evacuation.
The explosion severely polluted the
Songhua River, with an estimated 100 tons of pollutants containing benzeneand nitrobenzeneentering into the river cite news |title = China pledges to minimize impact of river pollution on Russia | url = http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2005-11/24/content_3831641.htm | publisher = Xinhua | date = 24 November 2005] . Exposure to benzenereduces white blood cellcount and is linked to leukemia.
An 80 km long toxic slick drifted down the Amur River, and the benzene level recorded was at one point 108 times above national safety levels. The slick passed first on the
Songhua Riverthrough several counties and cities of Jilinprovince, including Songyuan; it then entered the province of Heilongjiang, with Harbin, capital of Heilongjiangprovince and one of China's largest cities, being one of the first places to be affected. After traversing the eastern half of Heilongjiang including the city of Jiamusi, the slick converged into the Amurriver at the mouth of the Songhuaon the border between China and Russia. It passed by the Jewish Autonomous Oblastin Russia, then entered the Russian region of Khabarovsk Kraiin the Russian Far East, passing through the cities of Khabarovskand Komsomolsk-on-Amurbefore exiting into the Strait of Tartary, itself a bridge between the Sea of Okhotskand the Sea of Japanportions of the Pacific Ocean.
November 13, a water plant in Jilin city, Jilin, was closed. Several hydropowerstations in the upper reach of Songhua Riverbegan to increase their discharge flow. On November 15, Songyuan, Jilin, stopped using water from Songhua River. By November 18, water supplies in Songyuan, Jilin, were partially suspended. Water supplies in Songyuan, Jilin, were restored on November 23.
Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang, is one of China's biggest cities with nearly ten million urban residents. It is also dependent on the Songhua River for its water supply.
November 21, the city government of Harbin announced that water supplies would be shut off at noon November 22for four days for maintenance. Some residents of Harbin have complained that water in some parts of the city had been shut off much earlier than announced. The city also ordered all bathhouses and carwashes to close. At the same time as the enigmatic announcement, rumours ran wild about the possible cause of the shutoff, with some suggesting that an earthquake was imminent (causing some people to camp outdoors) and others claiming that terrorists had poisoned the city's water supply. The news of the shutoff caused panic buyingof water, beverages, and foodstuffs in the city's supermarkets, while train tickets and flights out of the area were soon sold out. Meanwhile, dead fish were appearing along the banks of the Songhua upstream from Harbin, further compounding the fears of Harbin residents.
Later on the same day, the city government issued another announcement, this time explicitly mentioning the Jilin explosions as the reason for the shutoff. The four-day shutoff was postponed to midnight on
November 24. From 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on November 23, the city temporarily restored the water supply to allow residents to stock up on water, since the slick had not yet reached the city. In the afternoon of the same day, schools in Harbin were closed for one week. Also on November 23, Harbin residents began to receive water from fire trucks, and began voluntary evacuation.
The slick itself reached Harbin before dawn on
November 24. On that day, the nitrobenzene level at Harbin was recorded at 16.87 times above national safety level, while the benzene level was increasing, but had not yet exceeded national safety level. The nitrobenzene level doubled on November 25(0.5805 mg/L), 33.15 times the national safety level, and began to decrease. The benzene level stayed under national safety level. At the same time, the tail of the slick left Zhaoyuan, Daqing, Heilongjiang. Premier Wen Jiabaoof the State Council visited Harbin on November 26to inspect the current situation, including the status of water pollution and water supply.
In response to the crisis, trucks transported tens of thousands of metric tons of water from surrounding cities, and thousands of tons of
activated carbonfrom all over the country to Harbin. The government of Harbin also ordered the price of drinking water to be frozen at the level of November 20, in order to combat overpricing. In addition, Harbin is boring ninety-five more deep-water wells, to complement the existing 918 deep-water wells in the city. Fifteen hospitals were on stand-by for possible poisoning victims.
Harbin was not the only city to be affected. The slick passed through the city of
Jiamusi, which, however, relies more heavily on underground water supply, and thus did not cut off water supplies. Nevertheless, on December 2, Jiamusi shut down its No. 7 Water Plant, which supplies around 70% of the city's water supply, and evacuated half of the population on its Liushu island.
It is reported that the entry of several tributaries into the Songhua, such as the
Hulan Riverand the Mudan River, diluted the slick.
Water supply in Harbin was resumed in the evening of
The slick reached the
Amurriver at December 16, [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4534542.stm | title = Toxic leak reaches Russian river | publisher = BBC News| date = 2005-12-16] and arrived at the Russian city of Khabarovskfour to five days later. In readiness, a communications hotline had been set up between Chinese and Russian agencies, and China offered water testing and purifying materials, including 1,000 tons of activated carbon to Russia. [cite news | url = http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2005-12/16/content_3932826.htm | title = 2nd batch of water purifying materials offered to Russia | work = www.chinaview.cn | date = 2005-12-16] Khabarovskplanned to shut off its water supply in "extreme circumstances", prompting residents to stock up on water.
After exiting the Amur river, the
contaminantsentered the Strait of Tartaryand then the Sea of Okhotskand the Sea of Japan, which have Japan, Koreaand Far-East Russia on its littorals.
Xie Zhenhua, China's Minister of State Environmental Protection Administration, resigned and was succeeded by Zhou Shengxian, former director of the State Forestry Administration [cite news | url = http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2005-12/02/content_3870384.htm | title = Environmental chief sacked following major pollution | work = www.chinaview.cn | date = 2005-12-02] .
The Chinese press were critical of the authorities' response to the disaster. [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4465712.stm | title = Chinese papers condemn Harbin 'lies' | publisher =
BBC News| date = 2005-11-24] Jilin Petrochemicals, which runs the plant that suffered the explosions, initially denied that the explosion could have leaked any pollutants into the Songhua River, saying that it produced only water and carbon dioxide. The media has focused mostly on Harbin, with almost no information on the slick's effect on cities and counties in Jilin province. Heilongjiang responded to the crisis a full week after the explosions occurred: their initial announcement attributed the impending shutoff to "maintenance", and gave only a day's notice; it was the second announcement on the next day that clarified the reason for the shutoff and postponed the shutoff. [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4463580.stm | title = Pollution worries China's press | publisher = BBC News| date = 2005-11-23] In response, Vice Governor Jiao Zhengzhongof Jilinprovince and Deputy General Manager Zeng Yukangof CNPC have visited Harbin and expressed their apologies to the city. On 6 December, the vice-mayor of Jilin was found dead in his home. [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4505650.stm | title = Chinese toxic blast official dead | publisher = BBC News| date = 2005-12-07] This followed a threat by the Chinese government to severely punish anyone who had covered up the severity of the accident. The threat applied only to the initial explosion and not the extended cover up of the benzene slick.
Environment of China
* cite news | title= Toxic leak threat to Chinese city| url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4462760.stm | publisher= BBC | date =
23 November 2005
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