In the aftermath of the deadly explosion caused by a leaking underground oil pipeline in Qingdao that killed at least 52 and injured hundreds, residents are now expressing outrage because authorities had not issued warnings or evacuations upon discovering the leak seven hours prior to the blasts, SCMP reports.
The report states that pipeline leaked onto the street and into a nearby harbor for nearly 15 minutes before being shut down at 3:15 a.m. on Friday, and seven hours later the explosion occurred as workers tried to fix the leak.
The reports only deepened residents’ unease in the historic port city of nearly 9 million people. Shandong is home to one of the largest crude-oil import terminals in the country, and controls one-seventh of the nation’s oil and gas pipelines.
“Residents near the accident were told nothing about the early-hour leak, which generated harmful fumes,” said a woman living some blocks away from the site of the explosion. “What did they do in the intervening seven hours? If people were told in the beginning, at least they would have had a chance to move away from the area and this tragedy may have been avoided.”
Another woman from the same neighbourhood, surnamed Huang, said the leak might have been covered up had the explosion not occurred. “I didn’t know the pipeline was this close to us and this dangerous,” she said.
“I think the government owes us an explanation and I want to know how they plan to solve this problem.”
The report says that government censors quickly picked up on residents’ complains and warned various media outlets not to “hype” the event.
Caixin magazine reported that the pipeline did not comply with government regulations regarding its distance from residential areas and that Sinopec knew the aging pipe structure was a security risk but never started work to fix the problem, according to SCMP.
Xi Jinping visited Qingdao City over the weekend to express condolences to victims of the tragedy at a local hospital.
Pictures of the devastation are all over China’s media, including a particularly saddening photograph recorded mere hours before the blast showing construction workers fixing the pipe, almost all of whom are now dead.