Saigon port urged to move toxic, flammable containers far from schools, houses

By Dam Huy – Cong Nguyen, Thanh Nien News

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Containers at Cat Lai, which is Vietnam's largest port, in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo credit: Voice of Vietnam Containers at Cat Lai, which is Vietnam's largest port, in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo credit: Voice of Vietnam

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Ho Chi Minh City has asked the management of the country’s largest port Cat Lai, which is located near a dense residential area, to protect the public from being harmed by hundreds of containers carrying toxic and flammable substances. 
The 332 dangerous tanks and containers are piled up to a height of four meters in a 2.8-hectare zone at one end of the port in District 2. The zone is enclosed with only steel sheets that are two meters high. 
There are houses around 30 meters away from the site, and a kindergarten, a primary school and a secondary school within a 100-meter radius.
Nguyen Thi Bich Quyen, who lives nearby, said she and other residents could smell the chemicals from the site sometimes.
“We are very worried about a possible fire or explosion,” she said. 
A team of police and trade officials visited the site a month ago and found that most of the containers in question contain flammable gas and solid chemicals and liquids. Some of them are highly toxic.
  
'Too close'
“They are very close to schools and residential areas. There are simply not enough measures for fire safety," a senior fire fighting officer said after the visit.
Le Tan Buu, director of the city's fire department, said it has asked the city government to order Saigon New Port Corporation, which manages the port, to build a taller and thicker fence to shield the chemical containers from the public.
But a source from the District 2 government said that the chemicals are located too close to residential areas and most protection measures would be ineffective. 
The official said the city should order the port managing company, which was established by the defense ministry, to move the chemicals to a more isolated location.
Lieutenant Colonel Pham Duc Hung, a senior executive at Saigon New Port, said it is asking the city’s government to allocate a new area of around 19 hectares to keep the containers.
But he also said there have not been any safety problems over the past two decades at the port. 

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