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Harbin cuts water supply for pollution fear
(China Daily/chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2005-11-23 06:14

HARBIN: The city government yesterday made a U-turn by admitting that fears of water contamination in Songhua River, which supplies the capital of Heilongjiang Province, were behind the city's four-day water supply cut.

On Monday, it rejected such fears as "just a rumour," saying the stoppage scheduled to begin late last night was for a thorough check of the water-supply system.

Students at Gongbin Primary School in Harbin join in the water-storage exercise as the city suspended its water supply at midnight Monday.[China Daily]

A government statement said yesterday that the environment bureau had forecast that possibly-contaminated water could arrive from the upper reaches of the river in the coming days following a chemical plant blast on November 13.

The chemical plant in Jilin city, in the neighbouring Jilin Province, is only a few hundreds metres from the banks of the 1,850-kilometre Songhua. Harbin is on the middle reaches of the river.

The Harbin municiapl government has decided, starting Wednesday, all the city's secondary and primary schools will be closed, till November 30, when safe water supply will have resumed.

Students will have a lesson on safety on Wednesday morning and then be dismissed.

The water-supply cut, earlier announced to be from noon yesterday, was postponed to midnight as the government called on residents, work units and businesses to store enough water.

All the city's wells will be used to supply drinking water and the health department should ensure safety, the government said, adding that water tankers would be on standby.

City residents, who number 3.8 million, continued to buy and stock up water. All utensils, such as pails, kegs, thermos flasks, and washbasins in the city were filled; and containers enjoyed brisk sales.

Bottled mineral water remained out of stock in supermarkets and shops but beverages and milk were available.

However, there was no panic buying like on Monday or long queues at shopping centres because tap water was available.

At noon, the government issued a statement saying the water quality in Songhua was normal, and called on citizens to remain calm.
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