Friday, November 25, 2005

The NE

As you may or may not be aware from the international news, a few days ago there was an explosion at a petrochemical plant in the city of Jilin. This plant was (and I suppose still least in part) handily situated by the banks of the Songhua River. Consequently, a large dose of chemicals was released into the water, which has been slowly meandering its way north towards Haerbin (Harbin), the provincial capital of Heilongjiang - a city of some 4 million people.

Now Haerbin is without water, as the supply has been shut off to avoid contamination, and it is apparently impossible to buy a ticket out of the city - no one can leave fast enough! And quite rightly too, with Benzene levels at over 10 times the safety level in the river...

Now the 80km slick is heading towards Russia, through which the river flows before it reaches the sea. Russia's not too happy.

What long term effects might this have? Well, Haerbin is famous for its Ice Lantern Festival, and much of the city's winter economy is driven by the income from tourists throughout the festival (Late Dec to late March). If this is treated with the usual suspicion from the people that greets such disasters in this country, I predict a quiet season! This paranoia is created because of a lack of information - and rumours here really fly.

Will the ice festival (which is built on the frozen river) be thawed out? Only time will tell...

EDIT: here's a handy link from the BBC .


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