China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Monday, December 25, 2006

1,000 villagers stranded after gas leak

By Huang Zhiling (China Daily)

Updated: 2006-12-25 06:54

XUANHAN, Sichuan: Roughly 1,000 villagers remain displaced after being driven

from their homes by a gas leak that started last Thursday in Qingxi Town,

Xuanhan County, in the eastern part of Southwest China's Sichuan Province.

A gas well operated by China Petrochemical Corporation started leaking at

around 7:00 pm on Thursday, leading to the evacuation of some 12,380 villagers

living within a 1-kilometre radius of the site.

About 3 hours after the leak started, officials from the corporation ignited

the gas to reduce pressure building up in the well.

"After the gas was ignited, we did not find any sulphureted hydrogen or

sulphur dioxide in the air at the site of the leak. Nor was there any water

pollution," said Liu Yuanbo, chief of the Xuanhan Environmental Monitoring


As a result, the county government yesterday permitted villagers outside a

500-metre radius surrounding the leaking gas to return home.

"Only some 1,000 villagers have not been able to return home," said Zhang

Chongyao, an information officer in the county.

Zhang told China Daily that the evacuees are living in government buildings,

schools, hospitals and radio stations in Qingxi Town and neighbouring Sanhe


"We are provided with free room and board. Doctors are available around the

clock in the makeshift shelter where we live," said Li Benhui, a 64-year-old

farmer from Fulong Village in Qingxi Town.

Wang Nengqiu, Xuanhan County magistrate, said the county government had set

up an emergency fund of 100,000 yuan (US$12,700) to buy quilts, instant noodles

and mineral water for the evacuees.

More than 400 primary school students evacuated from their villages will

return to school today, said Xu Daiqiu, chief of the publicity department of the

county's Party committee.

Zou Xiaoyan, a third-grader at Jin'e Village Primary School in Qinxi Town,

told China Daily that she had not expected to return to school so quickly.

"I am very happy," she said.

Early yesterday workers failed to fill in the leaking well with about 200

tons of cement. Officials from the corporation were weighing their options last

night, but no back-up plans had been implemented as of press time yesterday.

The eastern part of the Sichuan Basin abounds in natural

gas reserves.

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