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Contamination Pushes Harbin to Shut Down Water Supply

The municipal government of Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang province, announced on Tuesday night a week-long suspension of water supply to urban areas beginning the early hours of Wednesday.

China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) confirmed on Wednesday that the chemical plant explosion on November 13 in neighboring Jilin Province is the cause of contamination of the Songhua River, a major source of drinking water for Harbin.

The authorities have also kick started the city's emergency medical care system for residents, which involves 15 hospitals, due to possible contamination of the city's water supplies, sources with the provincial health bureau said.

Yang said the phone numbers of these 15 hospitals will be published in the local media.

Further public health and safety measures include the suspension of all primary and middle school classes from November 23 to 30.

Sources from the Harbin Bureau of Education announced that primary and middle students will attend one lesson on public safety on Wednesday morning before being dismissed.

Meanwhile, Harbin's major factories including Harbin Boiler Factory Co. Ltd., Harbin Electrical Machine Factory Co. Ltd and Harbin Steam Turbine Plant Co. Ltd. indicated on Tuesday that their operations will not be affected by the water supply suspension. They said they have taken effective measures to ensure their companies operate normally and safely.

Tao Zhiyuan, vice chairman of Harbin Steam Turbine Plant's information bureau, said the company has mapped out a reaction plan to guarantee water supply both for drinking and production during the suspension period.

So far, the factory has set aside 1,200 tons of water for normal use that should last three or four days. If the suspension period is extended, Tao said the factory would use fire engines to collect water from underground water sources.

(Xinhua News Agency November 23, 2005)

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