Four chemicals-loaded vessels catch fire

Updated: 2007-09-03 09:17

Four vessels carrying methanol caught fire  at a pier in the central Chinese city of Wuhan Sunday afternoon, injuring one sailor, local authorities said.

The accident happened at about 2:10 p.m. at the Chenjiadun pier on the Hanjiang River, when the fire suddenly broke out on one of the four vessels, according to the fire-control authorities of Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province.

The fire soon spread to the other three vessels, burned the chemicals they carried and triggered small explosions from time to time, leaving pungent smells in the air. The first vessel catching fire sank soon after.

Most of the 10 sailors aboard the vessels managed to escape after the fire broke out, and only one of them was injured.

More than 20 fire engines were dispatched to quench the fire on the three vessels. Firemen had extinguished the fire by 10 p.m.

Methanol is a colorless, toxic and flammable liquid, and exposure to it can cause headaches, severe abdominal, leg and back pains, loss of vision, and even death.

The four vessels, which are owned by a water transport company from east China's Jiangxi Province, were loaded with 49 tons, 10 tons, 37 tons and 480 tons of methanol, respectively. The sunken vessel hauled 49 tons.

Hanjiang River is a source of drinking water for Wuhan with a population of nearly 5 million.

The local environmental authorities have not found signs of leakage of methanol, but the municipal government have organized a group of experts to prepare precautionary measures for fear of chemical leakage.

Investigation into the cause of the fire has been under way.

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