Vietnam agencies yet to find cause of vehicle fires

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Agencies have reported to the government their findings on the mysterious vehicular fires that have occurred since 2010, but said conclusions on the causes will not be announced until this month end.

At a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai on Friday, the Ministry of Public Security said 324 vehicles had caught fire across the country in 2010 and 2011.

Incomplete statistics showed that another 65 cases have been recorded in the first three months of this year, it said.

While some cases could be said to have been caused by problems to do with electrical connections and engines, it was difficult to identify causes in many other cases for various reasons including the vehicle owners' lack of cooperation, the ministry said.

It also said that in many instances, police officers were too busy dealing with the crowds that gathered at accident sites and unable to focus on collecting evidence.

The Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Industry and Trade told Hai that they are drafting plans to study vehicles' fuel and engines, and establish teams of inspectors to check gasoline quality and study more about possible causes for the mysterious fires.

The results of investigations into fires and explosions were expected to be announced this month end, said Tran Viet Thanh, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology.

In response to the reports, Hai ordered the Ministry of Public Security to join hands with other related agencies to announce their conclusions soon, as well as issue warnings about risks and preventive measures to the public.

Too slow

Hoang Manh Hung, former deputy chief of the Ministry of Public Security's Crime Science Institute, said the agencies were too slow in announcing their findings in this case.

It has showed that they are yet to fulfill their responsibilities towards the people, he stressed.

"The public will question the slowness, wondering if it is because agencies' management or scientists' expertise is poor," Hung said.

He said spurious gasoline is still a key suspect and needs to be studied further.

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Earlier, between December last year and this March 9, the science ministry's department of product quality management collected 26 samples of gasoline taken from burned vehicles and gas stations where the vehicles' owners bought fuel from, and said they found nothing wrong with the samples. 

However, Hung said the findings are not enough to clear suspicions around gasoline of dubious quality.

He noted that following local media's exposure of adulterated fuel, vehicular fires seemed to have decreased recently.

In January, Thanh Nien published a series of investigative reports that showed many unscrupulous tank truck drivers have been siphoning gasoline and replacing it with other liquids en route from depots to retail stations.

Truck drivers and transport services were found stealing portions of their loads, refilling tanks with fraudulent fuel during quick stops at prearranged locations, Thanh Nien reporters found.

Fires continue

In related news, a truck caught fire when it was crossing the Thanh Tri Bridge in Hanoi on Saturday.

Along with locals, the driver managed to extinguish the fire, which started from under the vehicle.

A day earlier, an Attila Elizabeth scooter of the SYM company suddenly caught fire and was destroyed in Hoang Mai District, Hanoi. The same day, about three and half hours later, another motorbike, an SH125 Honda, was partially burned in the same district. 

No casualties were reported in the latest cases.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people on Friday stormed a gas station in Dinh Tri Commune, the northern province of Bac Giang, accusing it of selling gasoline of low quality, leading to several fires in the area, and demanding compensation.

The people claimed that after having gasoline tanks filled at the Doi Nen station, their vehicles did not operate properly, with the engines getting overheated or unable to start.

According to some people, many vehicles broke down, while others caught fire without clear reasons.

In response to the compliants, an official with Bac Giang Town's police division told Thanh Nien that they are collecting samples from the gasoline station for testing.

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