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GPS to help prevent more tanker accidents
By Song Wenwei and Li Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-04 06:26

Sixteen hundred "travelling bombs" - tankers carrying dangerous chemicals - will be armed with Global Positioning System (GPS) by the end of the year, the Shanghai-based Wenhui Daily has reported over the weekend.

The move comes in the wake of last week's chlorine leak that killed 29 people and poisoned more than 340 in East China's Jiangsu Province.

It is aimed at enhancing the supervision of the transport of dangerous materials such as alcohol, benzene, gasoline and chlorine, said the newspaper.

With GPS vehicle tracking devices, the Shanghai Overland Communication Administration can monitor the travel activities of all "moving bombs" and take quick action if accidents occur.

On March 29, an overloaded tanker carrying liquefied chlorine burst a tyre then rammed into a cargo truck on the Huai'an section of the Beijing-Shanghai expressway, killing the cargo truck driver immediately.

Chlorine leaked out but rescue work was delayed as the tank driver fled and did not report the accident straight away.

So far, nearly 20 per cent of Shanghai's tankers designed to carry dangerous chemicals have been equipped with GPS systems.

The others will have them by the end of 2005.

The administration has also just begun overhauling its 1,600-odd tankers.

So far, one 30-ton-truck has not met the standards and was ordered off the road to be refitted.

The administration also signed liability contracts with all transport companies citywide at the end of last month.

In those, the responsibilities of the two parties are clearly defined, including the transport of dangerous chemicals, said the report.

Meanwhile, in Huai'an, where last week's tragedy occurred, the treatment of contaminated air and water in the area was completed yesterday.

The local government and related departments are helping villagers get back to normal and are discussing compensation.

By yesterday evening, about 40 of the 343 hospitalized villagers were home. Nine were still in a critical condition and are expected to stay in hospital for another two to three weeks.

"Most of the injured will be able to return home in the next few days and they will not suffer from any further bad effects," said Xu Xinrong, a doctor from Jiangsu People's Hospital.

Medical workers from the local disease control centre have been sterilizing contaminated items, including house interiors, belongings and farmland.

Some villagers were worried that the poisoned farmland, covering 1,375 hectares, would not grow anything for some time to come.

"This worrying is groundless. Tests on the soil have shown that no major harm has been done to the land. It will be back to normal in about 3 weeks for farming," said Diao Chunyou, an expert from the provincial land and forest preservation department.

The local government has distributed free food to all families in the affected area.

Villagers have also been told what to do with infected objects in their houses and how to deal with farming materials, such as animal fodder.

Some of the dead have already been cremated and 21 of the 29 families of the dead have reached compensation agreements.

Statistics from the General Administration of Work Safety indicate that the number of accidents involving dangerous chemicals has risen in recent years.

Just a couple of days after the fatal chlorine leak in Huai'an, two more accidents happened.

On April 2, a tank carrying five tons of hydrochloric acid had a faulty valve in Shijiazhuang, the capital of North China's Hebei Province.

The acid poured onto the road, severely damaging it. On April 1, a tanker loaded with nearly 20 tons of liquefied natural gas was travelling on an expressway in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.

It was discharging a white foggy gas, the Chengdu-based Tianfu Morning Post reported.

Firefighters rushed to the scene and stopped the leak. No casualties or damage was reported.

(China Daily 04/04/2005 page3)

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