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Secrets behind Tianjin explosion – part 4

Tianjin explosion


Sidestepping Safety

回避安全举措

 

The sodium cyanide arrived at Rui Hai in wooden crates, hundreds every month, each marked "TOXIC" with an imprint of a skull and bones. The material was headed to mines around the world to extract gold from rock, but it was as deadly as the cyanide used in the Nazi gas chambers.

每月都有数百个装有氰化钠的木箱抵达瑞海仓库,每个木箱上都印有"有毒"的标志——骷髅头和交叉骨形。这些化学品会被运往世界各地的矿山,以从岩石中提炼黄金,但它们的毒性和纳粹毒气室中使用的氰化物不相上下。

 

Storing and shipping sodium cyanide was one of Rui Hai's specialties. This summer, it had received an especially large shipment — 700 tons, enough to fill 35 shipping containers. But the company was authorized to store only 10 tons at a time, according to the 2013 environmental assessment.

储存、运输氰化钠是瑞海的专营项目之一。今年夏季,该公司收到了大量货物——700吨,可以装满35个船运集装箱。但根据2013年的环境评估,该公司只准每次储存10吨货物。

 

Former clients said Rui Hai executives were willing to sidestep safety measures aimed at reducing the risk of accidents and often boasted of their ability to overcome bureaucratic hurdles.

前客户表示,瑞海管理层希望回避旨在减少事故风险的安全举措,经常吹嘘称能够克服官僚障碍。

 

"Whatever problem you had — not enough time, a huge order — they took care of it," said the chief executive of a large Chinese plastics company, who asked to be identified only by his surname, Liu, to avoid retaliation from the authorities. "Their talent was cutting through all the hassle."

"无论你有什么问题,时间不够,订单太大,他们都会处理,"中国一家大型塑料公司的首席执行官刘先生说。"他们能解决所有麻烦。"为了避免遭到当局报复,刘先生要求只透露姓氏。

 

Calisto Radithipa, a chemicals trader based in Hong Kong, shipped sodium cyanide to Zimbabwe through Rui Hai several times. "At the end of the day, it was profit first," he said.

香港化学品交易商卡利斯托·拉迪斯帕(Calisto Radithipa)多次通过瑞海向津巴布韦运送氰化钠。他表示,"最终,盈利是最重要的。"

 

Based on customs and transport records, officials say, Rui Hai was storing as much as 3,000 tons of hazardous chemicals on the night of the explosions, including 1,300 tons of ammonium nitrate and potassium nitrate, used in fertilizers and to create explosive materials. Also on the site were 500 tons of magnesium, an explosive powder, and metallic sodium, which is used to purify metal and can spontaneously ignite when exposed to air.

官员们表示,根据海关及运输记录,瑞海在爆炸事故发生的那一夜储存着多达3000吨的危险化学品,其中包括1300吨用于生产化肥和制造炸药的硝酸铵和硝酸钾。仓库里还有500吨镁和金属钠,前者是一种易爆粉末,后者用于提炼金属,接触空气时会自燃。

 

There were also unspecified amounts of calcium carbide, a highly flammable chemical used in welding; sodium hydrosulfide, an extremely toxic compound used in mining; and toluene diisocyanate, a compound used to make plastics that explodes when exposed to heat.

还有数量不明的焊接用高度易燃化学品电石和用于采矿的剧毒化合物硫氢化钠,以及用于制造塑料制品、遇热会爆炸的化合物甲苯二异氰酸酯。

 

A year earlier, the stockpile was even larger. A routine safety inspection in June 2014 found 4,261 tons of hazardous chemicals. There is no indication regulators objected.

一年之前的库存量甚至更大。2014年6月开展的常规安全调查发现,该仓库储存了4261吨危险化学品。但没有迹象表明监管者对这种做法提出了异议。

 

Experts say storing such large quantities of chemicals at one site is dangerous, because it heightens the risk of an explosive reaction and can exacerbate the damage caused by any fire.

专家表示,在一个地方储存这么多化学品非常危险,因为这加剧了爆炸反应的风险,会加重任何火灾造成的损害。

 

"It's an incredible amount," said Neal Langerman, a chemical safety consultant in San Diego. "If you're going to have large quantities, you really have to do it right. If you do it right, it costs you money."

"库存量大得惊人,"圣迭戈化学品安全顾问尼尔·朗格曼(Neal Langerman)说。"如果你想储存大量货物,那你真的必须通过正确的方式来做。要想正确地做,就要花钱。"

 

Chinese regulations require that hazardous chemicals be kept in well-ventilated areas, far from sunlight, power cords and other heat sources. But Rui Hai's warehouses were known for shoddy construction and outdated equipment, people involved in shipping chemicals from the warehouse said.

中国的规定要求将危险化学品放置在通风良好的地方,远离阳光、电源线及其他热源。但负责运送仓库化学品的人员表示,众所周知,瑞海仓库建筑简陋,设备陈旧。

 

Chemicals are also supposed to be stored separately and at safe distances to reduce the risk of reactions. But Rui Hai often crammed containers full of different dangerous chemicals next to each other, former clients said.

化学品还应该单独存放在处于安全距离的地方,以减少产生反应的风险。但前客户表示,瑞海经常将装满不同危险化学品的集装箱堆在一起。

 

Hu Jianzhong, a manager at a Tianjin logistics firm, said Rui Hai packed the containers together because the authorities had not allowed warehouses to devote more space to hazardous materials, even as the volume of chemicals going through the port increased in recent years. The safety assessment conducted by the private company before Rui Hai obtained its license noted that containers were stacked three high when two should be the limit.

胡健中(音)是天津一家物流公司的经理。他表示,瑞海将集装箱堆放在一起是因为,当局不允许仓库扩大危险物品的存放空间,而经由该港口运输的化学品的数量近几年来不断增加。在瑞海获得许可证前为该公司进行安全评估的私人公司指出,应该只能最多摆两层集装箱,但他们会摆三层。

 

Rui Hai was not the only facility with problems. A survey conducted in 2010 by the Ministry of Environmental Protection found that half of China's oil processing, coking, chemical and pharmaceutical plants were located within less than a mile of sites like schools and residential areas, in violation of regulations. And many Chinese chemical firms have cut back on safety training and ignore guidelines on storage to save on warehouse space, said Paul Pang, vice president of IHS Chemical, a research firm in Shanghai.

瑞海不是唯一一个存在问题的设施。环保部在2010年开展的调查发现,中国有一半的石油加工厂、炼焦厂、化工厂及制药厂都违反了相关规定,距离学校、居民区等场所不到一英里(约合1.6公里)。上海研究公司IHS化工副总裁庞雄鹰表示,中国的很多化工厂减少安全培训,忽视储存准则,以节省仓库空间。

 

The government says it has contained the fallout from chemicals at the blast site, but residents in Tianjin remain worried about the long-term effects of the toxins scattered in the explosion.

政府表示,政府已经控制了爆炸现场的化学尘降物,但天津的居民仍然担心爆炸散射的毒素的长期影响。

 

"It might take decades for them to figure out the impact of so many chemicals in the air and water," said Zhang Yangyang, 29, a lawyer wearing a respirator who emerged from her home lugging a bag of possessions. "This is not a risk I'm willing to take."

"他们可能要花几十年才能搞清楚空气中、水中这么多化学品的影响,"29岁的律师张阳阳(音)说。"我不愿冒这种风险。"戴着防毒面罩的张阳阳正拖着一袋行李离开住所。

2016-06-23

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