Army and civilian personnel have been deployed to decontaminate the areas surrounding the warehouse since September 12.
Efforts to collect and remove debris
Talking to Kinh te & Do thi newspaper, Senior Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Van Bong, head of the Rescue Department under the Hanoi Military High Command, said the armed forces garrisoned in Hanoi, the Institute of Military Environmental Chemistry under Vietnam’s Chemical Army and the Industrial Environment Joint Stock Company 10 (Urenco 10) are handling pollution at the factory.
Some 11.2 tons of burnt material on an area of about 650 square meters of factory premises have been collected. Urenco 10 has cleared 18.82 tons of iron and steel and about 28.34 tons of light bulbs and slags after spraying 4,600 liters of solution onto iron and steel.
Chemical Army cleans up ash and burnt bulbs containing mercury and amalgam at Rang Dong JSC’s factory. Photo: Kinhtedothi.vn
It is expected that in the coming days, the forces will use specialized chemicals to sprinkle on the surface to prevent soil contamination of the cleaned area.
Since September 14, Hanoi Sewerage and Drainage Company started dredging and clearing the sewer and drainage system around the destroyed factory.
The company said the work will last until September 20.
Free health check for more than 2,000 residents
The People’s Committee of Thanh Xuan district in collaboration with the Hanoi Department of Health has organized free checkups on September 13-14 for nearly 2,000 residents in the vicinity of Rang Dong JSC’s warehouse.
So far, around a thousand people have been found to have mercury amounts at permitted levels in their blood.
“After seven days of checks, we have not found any abnormal sign in their bodies or acute poisoning,” said Tran Thi Nhi Ha, deputy head of the Hanoi Department of Health.
Low mercury exposure levels
It is estimated that between 15.2 and 27.2 kilograms of mercury were released into the environment when the factory was ablaze, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
As requested by Hanoi’s authority, the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology has established an independent research group with the participation of leading Japanese experts in the field of mercury-related disease research to check mercury exposure levels in the factory and the surroundings.
Experts took samples of air, water, light bulbs, ashes and dust for analysis and determination of mercury content.
According to Dr. Mineshi Sakomoto, a senior expert from Japan’s Minamata National Research Institute, results from quick measurements of mercury level in the air inside the warehouse showed that it is within the safe limits prescribed by the World Health Organization.
Mineshi Sakomoto said the level of mercury exposure to people living in the area is estimated to be low and there has been no negative health effects.
Reportedly, the independent team is testing about 1,000 blood and more than 500 urine samples. So far, preliminary tests results from 287 blood and 165 urine samples show numbers within the safe range.
Sakomoto also noted that a map detailing the areas affected by the mercury released from the fire is needed, as it might take several months or years before the element has toxic effects.
Short circuit ignited the blaze: Official
Head of Office of the Hanoi People’s Committee Vu Dang Dinh speaks at a meeting on September 17. Photo: Kinhtedothi.vn
The blaze at Rang Dong JSC’s factory was caused by a short circuit, local media quoted Head of Office of the Hanoi People’s Committee Vu Dang Dinh at a meeting on September 17 as saying.
Dinh said the Institute of Forensic Sciences under the Ministry of Public Security found that a problem in the circuit board of an LED light bulb on the second floor, where several products and materials were stored, ignited the fire.
People living nearby evacuated their homes due to health concerns but authorities have tried to calm their fears.
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha last Thursday stated that areas surrounding the blaze-gutted warehouse are safe now.
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