fficials in the Fujian port city of Quanzhou are being accused of attempting to conceal the serious ramifications of a chemical spill which has threatened the health and livelihood of local fishermen and residents.
The spill occurred early on Sunday morning as a toxic substance called C9 aromatic hydrocarbon was being transferred onto a chemical tanker ship at a petrochemical wharf in the city’s Quangang district. During the transferring process, an old tube connecting the vessel to the wharf broke, spilling out 6.9 tons of the stuff into the water.
The product of refining crude oil, C9 is typically used as a solvent in paints and coatings. It is toxic to humans and releases harmful pollutants into the air when exposed to sunlight.
In a government-run clean-up effort, 100 boats and 600 people were quickly dispatched to use absorbant-materials to get the C9 out of the water. By Monday, the district government announced that the water and air in the area were both back to normal.
However, things certainly didn’t seem normal to local residents. The spill occurred near to a village and a number of fish farms. Afterward, fishermen reported an awful stench that still pervaded over the water in the area, charging that their farms had been contaminated and their fish killed.
Soon, reports also started coming out that people were beginning to fall ill.
Caixin talked to one man who said that his father had suddenly started to vomit and experience swelling in his hands. At the hospital, he was diagnosed with “gas poisoning.” According to the article, other locals showed similar symptoms.
On Thursday, the Quangang government was forced to come clean, announcing that 52 people had become sick following the spill with symptoms like dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. Ten of them remained in the hospital including one who had fallen into the contaminated water and contracted pneumonia.
Locals have charged officials with failing to properly handle the spill, failing to warn villagers to stay away from the water on Sunday and employing fishermen instead of professionals to clean up the mess. “Previously, after a typhoon, the police and border guards would all send people down to close off the pier,” one villager told Caixin. “No one would be allowed to enter, and the boats would get pulled up one by one. This time, something so poisonous was spilled, but no measures were taken.”
With so much government criticism, discussion surrounding the spill has been tightly controlled on Weibo. While some reports remain up, many comments have also been deleted. At the moment, Free Weibo ranks “Quangang” as the most censored term on the social media network.
“Wow, you really dare report this?” reads the second-most-liked comment on one popular Weibo thread.