HSE International

Death Toll in Chinese Fire Rises, Along With Anger at Apparent Safety Lapses

BEIJING — The high-rise apartment complex closest to Tianjin’s toxic chemical storage inferno was only 2,000 feet away, despite Chinese laws requiring a 3,200-foot minimum distance from hazardous sites.

The disclosure was among the new details emerging on Friday that suggested possible criminal negligence, mixed with rife speculation of an official cover-up, in the aftermath of the fire Wednesday night in Tianjin — China’s third-largest city and a major northeast seaport, about 90 miles east of Beijing.

With the death toll rising to at least 85 on Friday, more than 700 hospitalized and an unknown number still missing in the smoldering wreckage, the fire was shaping up as one of China’s worst industrial calamities. It appeared to expose the kinds of regulatory lapses that have plagued the country’s transformation into a global economic powerhouse.

Government officials, acutely aware of concerns over the fire, have sought to suppress unauthorized information. They seemed unprepared for the tough questions posed at a news conference in Tianjin on Friday, including why hazardous chemicals had been stockpiled so near populated areas. They abruptly ended the conference.

With uncharacteristic defiance, some Chinese news outlets did their own reporting anyway.

Local residents have said they had no idea that any risk had been posed by the warehouses where the fire began, a modest blaze that suddenly exploded in mammoth fireballs. They engulfed office buildings and port facilities, as well as onlookers who had gathered to watch the firefighters at work.

The developers of Vanke Port City, a residential complex that is practically at the incinerated area’s doorstep and has now been evacuated indefinitely, said they had been told when they started construction in 2010 that the warehouses in question handled only “common goods.”

“We were never notified that the warehouses were modified to handle dangerous goods,” a spokesman for the developer said in an email.

According to Chinese law, facilities that handle hazardous materials must be more than 3,200 feet from homes and public buildings. Vanke is 2,000 feet away.

Suspicions among the populace were further raised by the censorship of information. The vacuum was filled by online speculation about whether the owners of Rui Hai International Logistics, the company that owned the warehouse where the blasts originated, might be connected to senior government leaders.

The government’s online corporate registry for Tianjin remained offline nearly two days after the disaster, fueling concerns about a possible cover-up. Officials have said the blasts disabled the website, which lists details about corporate ownership.

Questions have also been raised about whether the hundreds of firefighters who raced to the scene had been aware of the potential hazards, and whether they had been trained to combat complex and volatile chemical fires. At least 24 of the dead were firefighters.

The remains of a victim were removed on Friday near a lot full of charred cars. The death toll has risen to at least 56. CreditWu Hong/European Pressphoto Agency

According to news reports, about 700 tons of sodium cyanide, a compound that releases highly toxic gas, had been stored at the Rui Hai warehouse. The site was also licensed to handle calcium carbide, a dangerous compound known to release flammable gases when mixed with water.

One fire official told The Paper, an online Chinese publication, that water might have been used to douse the initial fire. Southern Weekly, a newspaper known for occasional muckraking reporting, quoted a firefighter who said he had received no instructions about the risks of spraying water on the fire.

During a news conference on Thursday, a fire official, Zhou Tian, said that the first fire brigade to reach the scene had been trying to determine the contents of the Rui Hai warehouse, and that a second brigade had arrived moments before the explosions. “They were caught off guard, so the injuries are grave,” he said.

Officials have said they cannot determine exactly what kinds of chemicals were stored at the site, saying that the company had provided them with conflicting accounts. Earlier reports in the state news media said that senior company managers had been detained for questioning.

In a rare bit of good news, the state news media reported Friday that rescue workers had found an injured firefighter at the scene.

Throughout the day, explosions shook the site, including a series of small blasts at dusk that sent columns of alternately black and white smoke into the air.

Bulldozer operators sent by the local railroad company were helping clear paths through an otherworldly jumble of scorched vehicles and battered shipping containers. Nearby, a cordon of paramilitary police officers wearing face masks prevented people from returning to their homes.

“I haven’t changed my clothes in three days,” said one resident, Yuan Ping, 30, a telecommunications worker who described how she lost her dog as she and her family scrambled to safety. “A police officer told me the air inside was so toxic that my dog was probably dead.”

Another resident reacted angrily to published reports describing a study by the Tianjin Academy of Environmental Sciences that endorsed Rui Hai’s plans to expand its business into handling hazardous chemicals. The report, produced last year, claimed that a survey of local residents had found unanimous support for the project. “That’s nonsense,” the resident said from the hospital where he was being treated for a broken arm. “If we had known, who would have dared to live there?”

With roughly 6,000 residents forced from their homes and countless others unsure whether it was safe to breathe the air, government officials struggled to reassure the public that there was little danger. On Friday, they acknowledged that sodium cyanide had been found in sewer pipes under a port, but they said workers had shut the drains, ensuring that none of the chemical would seep into the adjacent Bohai Bay.

According to The Beijing News, Rui Hai at one point submitted documents saying it did not handle dangerous chemicals, but claimed in a subsequent filing that it had received the required permission from port officials.

The newspaper, quoting a deputy manager at Rui Hai, said workers were unsure what was stored at the site, a way station for chemicals awaiting export or transport to other parts of China.

 

The Shard is evacuated after fire breaks out in restaurant on 33rd floor

More than 100 people have been evacuated from The Shard after an oven fire broke out in a restaurant on the 33rd floor of the London landmark this morning.

Firefighters were called to the floor, which hosts Chinese restaurant Hutong, at around 11am after a fire started in the kitchen.

Diners and staff were evacuated from restaurants on levels 31, 32 and 33 of the building – which is the tallest in London at 306 metres – and there have been no reported injuries.

Seven fire engines and 35 fire officers attended the scene – but the fire was put out by the restaurant’s sprinkler system.

More than 100 people have been evacuated from The Shard after an oven fire broke out in a restaurant on the 33rd floor

The rest of the building on St Thomas Street in Southwark was unaffected. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

One visitor, Katie Buckley, posted on twitter after being forced to evacuate the building.

She said: ‘Just had to walk 245m down stairs because there was a fire alarm at The Shard and all the lifts were broken.’

Another visitor, Sarah Grant, tweeted: ‘Stuck up #TheShard in London due to a fire alarm going off! Pity there isn’t a cafe up here!’

Andy Rundell tweeted: ’50th birthday trip up the Shard cancelled due to fire alarm!!’

Managers at Hutong, which offers a signature menu at £68 per person, posted on Twitter saying: ‘Regrettably we will be closed until further notice due to an evacuation.’

Seven fire engines and 35 fire officers attended the scene - but the fire was put out by the restaurant's sprinkler system

Original Source: http://dailym.ai/1M35fax

HSE probes Boden’s-owned wood flour mill explosion

The cause of explosions last Friday (July 17) at the Cheshire wood flour mill owned by a subsidiary of wood recycling firm Boden’s are being investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

A total of 15 fire engines as well as police and ambulance services were in attendance at the scene on Tunstall Road in Bosley after two blasts on Friday morning which caused the collapse of a four storey building on the site and damage to some local houses.

The incident at the wood flour mill, operated by Wood Treatment Ltd, has left four people unaccounted for – named as 51-year-old William Barks; Dorothy Bailey, aged 62; 38-year-old Jason Shingler and; 62-year-old Derek Moore.

One body has been found in the search for the missing workers, but has “not been positively identified”, according to Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service. Six fire engines and three crews remain at the site this morning (July 20).

Some local families also had to be relocated to emergency accommodation, while Cheshire East council said 50 local people’s jobs have been lost “as a result of the destruction of this factory”.

HSE said it has been supporting emergency services at the site, providing advice on the presence of asbestos and LPG tanks, while HSE inspectors are also investigating the incident in collaboration with other agencies.

“The thoughts of everyone at HSE are with those affected by this incident”, HSE said in a statement.

Recycling

Council planning documents describe the Bosley site as a wood recycling facility, but it is unclear whether any fatalities at Wood Treatment Ltd will be counted towards HSE waste and recycling sector accident figures or be recorded instead as within the manufacturing sector.

A producer of wood flour since the 1930s, WTL International went into administration in May 2008, and press reports at the time explain that the firm was bought by wood recycling firm Boden & Davies with funding assistance from the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The company is now known as Wood Treatment Ltd and Boden’s website describes Wood Treatment Ltd as the ‘sole manufacturer’ of wood flour in the UK. It says the product is used in a wide variety of products and processes including ‘plastics, rendering, bulking ‘and for diverse uses such as polishing shire horses and show pigs’.

There is mention of the plant in a past fire safety case study produced by SMART Fire Training. The case study notes: “WTL International is the UK’s leading processor of organic materials and natural residues for a wide range of products. Its industrial-scale grinding and milling factory in Cheshire represents a particular fire hazard because of the vast quantities of wood flour and other powdered materials it produces.”

The site also produces Smartcat wood pellet cat litter, which is described as an ‘environmentally friendly alternative to mineral, clay and silica based litters’.

Originally founded as Boden and Davies in the 1950s, Boden’s Group collects and processes waste wood to produce animal bedding, pet products and biomass wood fuel.

Proposed biomass plant

A planning application lodged by consultancy Oaktree Environmental on behalf of Wood Treatment Ltd for the construction of a combined heat and power (CHP) biomass facility was approved by Cheshire East council in June 2014. The document describes Bosley site as a wood recycling facility.

The proposed 4.8MW Bosley CHP plant would have had the capacity to process 45,000 tonnes per year of waste wood to produce energy for the equivalent of more than 11,000 households.

According to the documents, the waste wood would have been sourced from the WTL operations on the site as well as from a ‘sister plant in Wigan’.

Neither Boden’s or Wood Treatment Ltd could be reached for comment.

Original Source: http://bit.ly/1eccpf7

Police water cannon use rejected by home secretary

The home secretary has refused to allow the use of water cannon in England and Wales – a year after three of them were bought by the Metropolitan Police.

Theresa May said “without safeguards” they had “the capacity to cause harm”.

London Mayor Boris Johnson authorised the £218,000 purchase of three second-hand cannon from the German police.

He said he “failed to see the physiological difference” between people in Northern Ireland – where cannon are used – and elsewhere.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper welcomed the decision.

Water cannon are used in Northern Ireland, but have never been deployed in the rest of the UK.

They were deployed most recently in north Belfast on Monday against Loyalist demonstrators during the annual Twelfth of July celebrations.

 

Mayor ‘disappointed’

Mrs May said the decision on whether to authorise water cannon was a “serious” one and a lengthy study had been carried out to assess their safety and effectiveness.

She said she had decided against granting a licence for a number of reasons, including concerns about the risk of injury to anyone struck by them.

Evidence suggested they were “unlikely to result in serious or life-threatening injuries”, Mrs May said, but there were still “direct and indirect medical risks”, including spinal fracture, concussion, eye injury and blunt trauma.

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Mrs May said “stand-off situations” in Northern Ireland were very different from “fast-moving, agile” rioting seen in London in 2011

She cited the case of a German man blinded after being struck in the face by a water cannon in 2010.

She also said she “remained unconvinced” about “the operability” of the particular water cannon purchased by the Met, which she said were 25 years old and had required considerable alteration and repair.

Police chief constables had also suggested water cannon were of limited use in response to “fast, agile disorder” such as that seen during the riots of 2011 – a very different proposition from the “stand-off situation we see in the parades in Northern Ireland”, she said.

Finally, the home secretary said she was concerned about the “potential impact of water cannon on public perceptions of police legitimacy”, and cited warnings from chief constables that they could be “entirely counterproductive” in areas which already had a strained relationship with the authorities.

“The country has a proud history of policing by consent and this is a decision which goes to its very heart,” Mrs May said.

 

‘Outbreak of violence’

A source close to Mr Johnson told the BBC he was “disappointed”, but the Met Police would continue to train on the three water cannon bought last year.

Responding to the announcement in the Commons, the mayor said the decision to buy the water cannon for London had been taken “with the strong support” of the prime minister, the commissioner of the Met Police and “the people of London”.

He asked whether, in the event of “a serious outbreak of violence that posed a threat to life and limb and property”, it would be open to police to present a new application for water cannon to be used.

Mrs May said it was always possible for the police to make an application for the use of a new non-lethal weapon, and if so, a proper process would be undertaken and a decision made by the home secretary.

SNP justice and home affairs spokesman, Joanna Cherry, said Scottish ministers would also not allow the use of water cannon.

She said they were disproportionate, indiscriminate and “cut across the traditional approach of policing in Great Britain”.

Original Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-33538171

Alton Towers denies ‘full pace collision’ on Sonic Spinball ride

Alton Towers has denied claims that guests were involved in a collision on the Sonic Spinball ride at the theme park which reportedly left four people injured.

An eyewitness reportedly told The Mirror the guests were hurt when two carriages knocked into one another “at full pace” on the ride on Tuesday at around 2:30pm.

The theme park however has denied the claim, and insisted that the two cars “nudged each other at walking pace.”

Danny Robinson, 24, from Liverpool, claimed in an interview with the newspaper that his friends “hit the back of their heads” and “another two hurt their necks.”

Twitter user @AmieJohno from Wirral wrote on the website that she was on the Sonic Spinball when her “carriage crashed into another one”

“Safe to say I won’t be going again!” she said.

A spokeswoman for the theme park owned by Merlin Entertainments told The Independent that there was no such crash on Tuesday, and it therefore did not happen at speed as Mr Robinson described.

She called reports “inaccurate and completely misleading.”

The theme park said in a statement: “Alton Towers Resort puts the health and safety of its guests at the forefront of everything it does, which means that from time to time rides will be closed to allow for technical issues to be reviewed. All rides are performing exactly as they are designed to do – including computer and process controlled shut downs which do happen.

“There has been an instance of this on Sonic Spinball. Two cars in the station area nudged each other at walking pace. The guests on the two cars walked off and we advised that they attend our medical centre as a precautionary measure. The ride reopened shortly afterwards.”

The theme park has been under the spotlight after 16 guests were involved in a serious collision on The Smiler ride last month.

Some four park guests were left with serious injuries after a carriage packed with guests crashed into an empty carrier on 2 June.

An ambulance drives past the Smiler roller coaster at Alton Towers ResortAn ambulance driving past The Smiler after the crash

Vicky Balch, 20, and Leah Washington, 17, were among the most seriously injured after the tragic accident, and have both had parts of their legs amputated.

Reports of the alleged incident emerged as Alton Towers was forced to apologise after passengers were trapped on a broken-down monorail for an hour on the hottest day of the year.

A park spokeswoman said: “In order to try and keep the evacuation of the 80 guests as simple as possible the decision was taken to move the trains to the nearest evacuation platforms.

“This took around half an hour for one train and a further 30 minutes for the second.”

Original Source: http://ind.pn/1IynyUd

This Chokeables advert by St John Ambulance has saved the lives of 36 children

This brilliantly executed advert has helped save the lives of at least 36 children. 

The Chokeables, voiced by David Walliams, David Mitchell, Johnny Vegas and Sir John Hurt, features tiny objects giving advice on what to do if your baby chokes.

It has been viewed more than 7.7 million times.

Becca Hensman, from Aldershot, said she was able to save her baby after seeing the 40-second advert.

She said: ‘I was sat on the sofa with my 12-week-old baby boy asleep in my arms when suddenly he started making a strange noise and started to go a funny colour.

‘It became very clear quickly that he was choking on something. I’d seen the St John Ambulance advert a few days earlier so I flipped my son over on to my leg and after the third back slap I gave him he coughed.

‘My dad checked his airway and luckily the obstruction cleared – my son had been sick in his sleep. If I hadn’t seen that advert I’m not quite sure how I’d have reacted but thankfully I had so I knew what to do straight away.’

The animated clip shows a pen lid, voiced by David Mitchell, asking for the audience’s attention before a red jelly baby – Johnny Vegas – starts choking and turns blue.

Sue Killen, chief executive of St John Ambulance, said: ‘The success of the campaign has been staggering, with over seven million views in our first few weeks, and we are thrilled that people have got behind the campaign.

‘It’s thanks to them spreading the word that so many people have been able to save a child from choking.’

Original Source: http://bit.ly/1xI8iQY

Fifty Shades of Grey 999 call spike expected by London Fire Brigade

Firefighters have said they are anticipating an increase in call-outs with the release of Fifty Shades of Grey at the cinema.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) said it was “concerned” the 13 February release could lead to a “spike” in people being stuck or trapped in handcuffs or rings.

Since April it has attended 393 such incidents.

LFB said people should use “common sense” but always call 999 in a genuine emergency.

The film, based on the novel by EL James, has been described as a “mummy-porn romance” and follows an affair between student Anastasia Steele and billionaire Christian Grey.

Dave Brown from LFB said: “The Fifty Shades effect seems to spike handcuff incidents so we hope film-goers will use common sense and avoid leaving themselves red-faced.

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Since April 2013 the capital’s fire crews have:

  • Attended 28 incidents involving people being trapped in handcuffs
  • Removed 293 rings, including seven from male genitalia
  • Attended other incidents, including releasing men’s genitals from toasters or vacuum cleaners
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“I’d like to remind everyone that 999 is an emergency number and should only be used as such.”

The brigade said on average it was called to more than one embarrassing incident every day at a cost of about £295 to the taxpayer each time.

In November firefighters were called by doctors at King’s College Hospital to cut two steel rings from a man’s genitals, which he had been unable to remove for three days.

On another occasion the brigade was called by a woman whose husband had become locked in a chastity belt.

A spokesman added that while there could sometimes be a “funny side” to some of these predicament, they could be painful and “end up wasting emergency service time”.

He added: “Our advice is to try and avoid getting in that position in the first place.”

Original Source: http://bbc.in/17kztpn