Emergency team goes to work after 'cyanide spilled' in truck collision

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 July, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 July, 1998, 12:00am

Eight departments joined forces yesterday in an accident drill held in response to the Garley fire.

More than 140 personnel - including firemen, police and hospital workers - took part in the exercise in which a truck carrying a large amount of suspected lethal sodium cyanide 'collided' with a minibus full of passengers.

Two dummies were certified dead at the scene in Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate's Chung Wang Street. Twenty other 'casualties' were trapped in vehicles or lying injured on the road.

Police arrived five minutes after the accident was reported. The fire brigade arrived five minutes later.

Firefighters donned protective clothing and gas masks after several drums of cyanide were found to be missing.

They shovelled a substance spilled on the ground into special plastic barrels before sealing them for disposal by the Environmental Protection Department.

Bleaching powders were thrown on to the spilled cyanide before it was washed away with water.

Decontamination showers were also set up to sprinkle passers-by who entered the affected area before it was cordoned off.

An incident liaison group was formed 30 minutes after the police were called with help desks set up by Home Affairs, Social Welfare, Police and Fire Services departments.

The Bomb Disposal Unit, Government Laboratory and Drainage Services Department were also mobilised.

At the inquiry into the Garley Building blaze - which killed 40 people in Yau Ma Tei in November, 1996 - Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing recommended liaison groups be set up in disaster situations to ensure the public, especially families of victims, were not kept in the dark.

Lee Tin-ping, Senior Divisional Fire Officer (Kowloon East), in charge of yesterday's drill, said in a prolonged incident it was important to keep the public informed, especially families of the victims involved.

On December 4 last year, the tailgate of a truck carrying cyanide flew open when the driver took a sharp turn. Drums of cyanide spilled near the Kowloon Reservoir.

Country park visitors later found traces of the poison even though the area was said to have been cleaned up.