Video: High waves threaten chemical plant in China

msnbc.com news services
updated 8/8/2011 8:17:38 PM ET 2011-08-09T00:17:38

A storm battering the northeast Chinese coast on Monday whipped up waves that threatened a dyke protecting a chemical plant, forcing residents to flee while soldiers and firefighters rushed to fill the breaches, news media said.

The waves slamming the coast near the port city of Dalian in Liaoning province were brought by tropical storm Muifa as it skated off the coast, hitting a half-built dyke protecting the Jinzhou development zone, official news agency Xinhua reported.

According to the website of the People's Daily newspaper, the plant's storage area contains around 20 metal tanks holding oil-based chemicals.

"If the breach cannot be blocked up, toxic chemical products may spill, and that would be extremely dangerous," the newspaper website reported from Dalian.

Over a thousand firefighters, troops and border guards rushed to prevent sea water from creating a bigger hole in the dike, the People's Daily website reported.

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Chinese television news showed trucks and earth movers lined up to block the 200-meter-wide breach with rocks and concrete blocks.

State news agency Xinhua later reported that the situation has been "brought under control for the time being," as the breach has beenfilled.

The local government said it would quickly move the tanks containing dangerous chemicals, adding that it has put in place emergency measures in case of a chemical spill, Xinhua said.

According to the report, Troops and police also helped disperse nearby residents, who gave no details of any damage or injuries.

"We do not know anything about the spill, and we cannot say anything," said a woman working at the reception desk for the Fujia chemical company who was contacted by Reuters.

Image: A large wave hits the coast at Qingdao city, eastern China
Wu Hong  /  EPA
A large wave hits the coast at Qingdao city in eastern China on Sunday.

Calls to the development zone, Dalian government and Liaoning provincial government went unanswered.

A serious chemical leakage would be a fresh headache for Liaoning, which recently suffered an oil spill from two offshore platforms.

Pollutants from that spill have been found spreading to beaches, and been blamed for losses to tourism and aquatic farming businesses, Xinhua reported in July.

Serious damage avoided in China
So far, China has avoided any serious damage from Muifa, which weakened to a tropical storm from a typhoon as it approached the country's east coast over the weekend.

Shandong province, which is across the Bohai Sea from Liaoning province, moved hundreds of thousands of residents from coastal areas and ordered tens of thousands of boats and other vessels to stay in ports as the storm passed on Monday.

Earlier, the full brunt of the typhoon's core missed Shanghai, but strong gusts knocked down billboards and briefly cut power to at least two residential areas.

A day earlier, Muifa had moved along China's eastern coast as a typhoon and downed power lines, billboards and trees in Shanghai and brought heavy rain to coastal Shandong province.

Last week, Typhoon Muifa killed four people in the Philippines without making landfall and caused injuries and power outages when it passed the Japanese island of Okinawa on Friday.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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