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Ship Collision Dumps Chemical in Yangtze

The Maritime Supervision Administration (MSA) of Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, is sparing no efforts to collect the toxic, flammable cyclohexanone that leaked from a tanker ship into the Yangtze River Sunday.

The chemical spill was caused by a collision involving two tankers ships.

According to an MSA official who declined to be named, by 6 PM Tuesday evening workers had cleaned up most of the spill.

Local newspapers reported that about 80 tons of cyclohexanone, often used as a solvent or as an additive to adhesives, had spilled into the water.

"The actual amount of the chemical that poured into the river is much less than that,'' the official said, "but we cannot provide an accurate figure now.''

The Nanjing MSA took special measures to enclose the water area containing cyclohexanone, and used more than a ton of oil absorption material to collect the chemical.

"Since cyclohexanone does not really dissolve in water, we can collect it this way,'' explained the official.

He claimed that cyclohexanone has low pollution toxicity, so that the spill should have little impact on the city's water supply.

Water supply companies in the city said they would still pay close attention to the accident and its effects.

Witnesses said the oil tanker Chicheng was turning in the area near a dock while the Changrun was sailing away from the dock. They collided at around 2:00 Sunday afternoon.

A big hole opened on the starboard side of Changrun, which was carrying 450 tons of cyclohexanone, and the chemical began to spill into the river.

A strong smell spread over the surface of the water, which caused chaos among the crew. Cyclohexanone typically smells of ketone.

Police, firefighters and staff from the Nanjing MSA reportedly rushed to the scene of the accident spot within minutes. They first evacuated the crew and nearby residents, and then moved the oil tanker to the riverbank. Meanwhile, they took steps to transfer the chemical to another ship as quickly as possible.

The official said that some MSA staff members jumped into the water to attempt to close the breech in the hull, using even bed quilts to stop it.

No injuries were reported in the accident, according to the police station at Xiaguan, a district of Nanjing.

"All the rescue work was finished around four on Sunday,'' the official said. "The remaining work was just to clean the polluted water.''

(Xinhua News Agency March 17, 2004)

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