No estimate yet of pollution from Taoyuan factory fire: city agency

Taipei, The Taoyuan Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said Sunday that the level of pollution from a massive fire at a factory in the city had not yet been determined as the blaze was still raging, but there was no deterioration of the air quality near the site.

The levels of hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds at site were below the workplace limit of 100 ppm, the DEP said, urging the public not to panic.

It said a monitoring station near the printed circuit board (PCB) factory in the city's Pingzhen District had not recorded any deterioration of the air quality, although smoke was still billowing from the complex as of 3 p.m. Sunday.

It was not clear what caused the fire, which broke out at Chin Poon Industrial (????) factory at around 9 p.m. Saturday and resulted in the deaths of two migrant workers and five firemen.

According to the city's fire department, sporadic explosions were heard while the firemen were carrying out rescue operations and apart from the five who lost their lives, seven others were injured, two of whom were in critical condition.

The DEP said 2.5 metric tons of acidic thiourea, a toxic white crystalline material or powder used by the factory in its manufacturing process, was stored in the basement of a building in the factory complex and about 2 tons was on the seventh floor.

However, that was not where the fire started, the DEP said, adding that it did not know whether the toxic substance had ignited.

Meanwhile, the water quality in the drain in front of the factory complex was normal as of midnight Saturday but by 7:30 a.m. Sunday, the pH level had dropped to 3, which indicated contamination, the DEP said.

According to the Ministry of Labor, the PCB manufacturing process is rife with hazardous factors and there is high risk of major industrial accidents such as chemical leaks, fires and explosions.

PCB manufacturing requires large quantities of chemical substances, including some that are highly acidic, alkaline, corrosive or flammable, the ministry said in a research report.

PCB factories are usually equipped to safely store and transport such chemicals but human error can result in chemical leaks that in turn can easily cause fires or other accidents, according to the ministry.

The blaze at the PCB factory in Taoyuan will take days to put out completely, according to the city's fire department.

Meanwhile, during a visit Sunday to the funeral home where the victims' bodies are being kept, Interior Minister Yeh Jiunn-rong (???) said the government will place spirit tablets at the Martyr's Shrine in tribute to the five firefighters who died in the line of duty.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel