Methanol, water found in gasoline that caused motorbikes to stall

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Ho Chi Minh City investigators have found methanol and water in gasoline at a station on National Highway 13 in Binh Thanh District.

They carried out tests on gasoline sold at the station following the stalling of around 100 motorbike engines shortly after they filled gas at the station on September 26.

Six of seven gasoline samples taken from the station and the bikes had methanol and water and the other had just water in it, Lieutenant Colonel Dang Ngoc Vinh, chief investigator of Binh Thanh District police division, told the Tuoi Tre newspaper.

On September 26, many people pushed their bikes back to the Lan Anh gas station at 220 National Highway 13, Binh Thanh District, accusing it supplying bad quality gasoline and asking for compensation.

One of the customers, Le Van Trung, said when around 50 of the first victims returned and complained, people at the station did not give any answers and kept selling gas to other customers until the police came around 30 minutes later.

The station also hired mechanics from nearby motorbike repair shops to pump gasoline out from stalled bikes. The motorbikes were then given gasoline from a different pump and it worked.

A day later, Ho Chi Minh City police temporarily shut down the gas station.

Lt. Col. Vinh said samples taken from the station's tank contained lower levels of methanol and water at lower levels than from the bikes.

He said the station's tank was refilled soon before the incident and it might have stirred up accumulated substances at the bottom.

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Binh Thanh investigators have asked the city's Department of Science and Technology to check the safety of the tank, he said.

Tuoi Tre contacted the gas station for comments only to be told "like several times before" that they will report to the station owner.

Phan Minh Tan, director of the HCMC Department of Science and Technology, confirmed that his agency has received the request from investigators and is going to check the tank.

"Water could have leaked inside. But methanol has been deliberately added," he said.

Thi Hong Xuan, a lecturer of mechanic and technology at the HCMC University of Agriculture and Forestry, said relevant criteria require no presence of methanol and water in gasoline.

"Methanol can degrade plastic and metal parts to cause leaks that could prompt fire," she said.

In related news, the Gia Lai Province Market Management Agency on Saturday told Thanh Nien that it has suspended a gasoline station of Manh Tien Company on Pleiku Town's Pham Van Dong Street.

On October 5, dozens of motorbikes could not start after getting gas from the station. The station's owner said they had repaired the tank recently and rain water might have leaked in.

More than a hundred vehicles have caught fire nationwide since early last year and there has been widespread suspicion that  they were caused by adulterated gasoline.

A national project is being conducted by a joint committee with officials from different agencies to try and identify the actual cause.

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