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Lethal gas explosion leads to safety calls

Update: April, 10/2012 - 11:09

BINH DUONG — Authorities have been urged to apply stricter punishment for people who illegally tamper with gas canisters, following a gas canister explosion that killed one woman and injured 10 others in southern Binh Duong Province on Saturday.

The explosion occurred when Le Minh Viet, 31, a fried fish seller from southern Dong Thap Province renting a room in the boarding house, allegedly opened a gas cylinder in an attempt to transfer gas into another container on Saturday evening.

Gas leaking from the canister exposed to heat caused an explosion that ripped through nine out of 43 rooms in the boarding house.

Viet, his wife and eight other injured people suffered serious burns and are being treated at the HCM City-based Cho Ray Hospital.

Head of the hospital's Burn and Plastic Reconstructive Department Tran Doan Dao said the patients were hospitalised with large and deep burns, covering 21 per cent to 87 per cent of their bodies.

He said that gas-related burns were more serious than other types of burns as victims suffered a extreme heat in a high pressure blast.

Illegal gas transfer posed a high fire and explosion risks but violators so far were mostly fined and not prosecuted as criminals, said vice head of southern Binh Duong Province's Market Watch Department Nguyen Thanh Danh.

As the punishment was not strict enough, the number of gas transfer violations had not fallen, said Danh.

Police in the province's Thuan An District are now considering launching a criminal investigation into Saturday's incident at the boarding house.

Danh said the case has raised the alarm over management and control of gas transfer in localities.

He said the province's authorities detected dozens of gas transfer-related violations each year.

Last week, 12 gas cylinders, each weighing 45 kilos, were discovered being transferred into smaller containers at Hue Minh Gas Store in Thuan An Town's Thuan Giao Ward.

Authorities also found more than 500 mini gas cylinders which were re-used many times and sold at retail stores.

At the same time, local authorities also found another store that had over 80 gas cylinders containing less gas than was indicated to customers. The shop's owner also failed to show certificates of origin for the gas canisters.

Le Thi Anh Man, vice chairwoman of the Viet Nam Gas Association, said illegal tampering with gas containers had increased significantly across the nation following a rise in gas prices at the beginning of the year.

Almost all recent gas explosions have been related to illegal gas extraction or low quality gas containers. The Southern Gas Association reported that last year, authorities seized more than 1,500 gas cylinders of unknown origin in southern provinces. — VNS

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