The tourist town of Ha Long was shaken by a blast in a shop selling cooking gas on Nguyen Van Cu Street on the night of October 22.
People living near Ngoc Luat Gas Shop said they rushed out of their houses and saw dark fumes coming out of the shop and glass windows nearby shattered by the explosion at around 8 p.m..
Police investigating the case said the people in the shop had all been upstairs at that time and hence unharmed.
The incident occurred just days after another blast at a fertilizer company in Ho Chi Minh City that killed three workers and seriously injuring two neighbors.
The two blasts in residential areas amid a cluster of houses have prompted widespread safety concerns among urban residents living near such facilities.
In HCMC, many gas and welding shops are located in residential areas and do not maintaining the regulated distance from neighboring houses.
Nguyen Van Tuyet, who lives on Le Thiet Street in HCMC’s Tan Phu District, said a gas shop opened on the corner of Le Thiet and Binh Long a year ago to trade large cooking gas canisters.
“They even piled them on the sidewalk. It can easily burn down the whole neighborhood because the shop is located near four clothes shops.
“These shops are like unexploded ordnance in the community that can go off anytime.”
Residents of neighborhood No. 5 in Phu Nhuan District have a similar concern because of living near a cooking gas shop that opened two years ago.
“They have been illegally pumping gas into small canisters recently, which is very dangerous,” a worried local resident said.
Many gas welding shops in HCMC too threaten to cause conflagrations.
At a section of Tan Phu District’s Tan Ky Tan Quy Street, three welding shops are located near many houses and shops.
A local resident said: “Besides causing pollution, they also threaten to cause fires and blasts. The workers at these shops often carry gas cylinders dangerously by placing them horizontally on their motorbikes.”
Most of the cylinders are old and rusted, he added.
Illegal and dangerous
Le Tan Buu, director of the HCMC Firefighting Police Department, admitted that illegal gas and welding shops are a difficult issue.
Figures from his agency show there are 847 welding shops in residential areas, 200 of them illegal.
Another survey found nearly 4,000 welders running household businesses, half of them without a license. Besides, more than 70 percent of licensed welders do not get periodic firefighting training as required.
Nearly 1,000 gas shops are also located in residential areas, with many of them illegally filling small canisters.