Suspected fuel passes inspection, Vietnam vehicular fires remain unsolved

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Tests on gasoline samples suspected of being related to recent vehicular fires in Vietnam revealed no excessive additives which might have caused the blazes, Tuoi Tre reported Saturday.

The newspaper quoted Tran Van Vinh, deputy chief of the Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality, as saying that the samples did not contain acetone or methanol, and its oxygen content did not exceed regulations.

Vinh said the samples were taken from the remaining gasoline in the fuel tank of the SYM Attila that caught fire in Hanoi on December 28. They also took samples from the gasoline station near the home of Nguyen Thi Quynh, who was killed along with her daughter when her Honda Dream exploded on December 1 in the northern province of Bac Ninh.

Although all the samples met Vietnam's safety standards, the agency still ordered its divisions to continue testing suspected samples to see if they were related to the fires and explosions, the official said.

He advised people and related agencies, in case of fires, to submit gasoline samples for testing.

Previously the directorate launched inspections in response to suspicion that traders were mixing low-performance fuel with additives to improve its combustion, so it could then be sold at high prices.

According to experts, acetone, methanol and ethanol corrode motorbikes' rubber compartments that come in contact with fuel, allowing it to leak and ignite.

Tainted fuel found in Hanoi

In the meantime, the two samples that the directorate took from random gasoline stations in Hanoi were found to contain excessive methanol, Tuoi Tre reported


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One had a methanol concentration of up to 20 percent, compared to regulations which call for levels no higher than 0.5 percent.

The other sample, taken from the Mai Dich station, a retailer of Tu Liem Services and Export Company (Tultraco), had a methanol rate of 15.8 percent.

Nguyen Kim Quan, deputy director general of Tultraco, said they bought the fuel from an agent of Military Petroleum Company, adding that to Tultraco's board of directors, high concentration of methanol means "high quality," according to the newspaper.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Xuan Canh, manager of Mai Dich station, said he was "surprised" by the findings, noting that they used a "strict process" to transport gasoline to the station, making it impossible to mix in additives.

When there are problems with the quality of gasoline, the supplier's agent and the producer should be held responsible, because gasoline stations are only distributors that earn commissions, according to Canh.

He said Tultraco has sent a letter to the Military Petroleum Company, asking to clarify claims about the gasoline's quality.

According to Tuoi Tre, previously Mai Dich station has had its gasoline checked by the Market Management Team No.13, following locals' complaints about its quality.

Tran Thi Bich, an inspector of the team, said in the newspaper that their tests on the gasoline found nothing wrong.

Mysterious fires continue   

In related news, a Mercedes Benz tanker caught fire Friday, as it headed from Hanoi to the northern province of Lang Son.

Driver Do Duy Phuong said as he drove at high speeds along National Way 1A in Bac Ninh province, he saw a fire burning behind the cockpit through his rear view mirror.

Phuong then quickly stopped the vehicle and jumped from the cockpit.

Upon receiving Phuong's call, Bac Ninh's firefighting division sent a truck to the site where it took firefighters nearly an hour to extinguish the blaze.

According to Tuoi Tre, the Sao Mai Industrial Gas Co. Ltd. tank truck was not carrying gas when the accident happened.

The fire, however, was big enough to damage the truck's electrical system, tires and cooling and heating systems, estimated to be worth VND1 billion (US$47,500).

At least 18 vehicular fires and explosions have occurred across the country this year, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Public Security on December 23. The fires nave not been exclusive to any particular brand, but have occurred in various Honda, SYM, and BMW models, the ministry said.

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