Singapore and Malaysia test chemical-spill readiness in joint exercise

SINGAPORE - Rescue teams comprising personnel from 24 agencies from Singapore and Malaysia swung into action on Thursday to tackle a simulated chemical spill at Tuas.

The scenario involved a collision between four vehicles - a hazardous chemical tanker, lorry, mini-bus and car - which resulted in ammonium hydroxide spilling onto the roads.

Drums of hydrochloric acid also fell into the sea, after the impact of the accident caused them to roll off the lorry.

Concentrated hydrochloric acid and ammonium hydroxide are highly corrosive and can cause burns to a person's skin. Their fumes can cause irritation to one's respiratory tract.

Officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and their Malaysian counterparts used water hoses to disperse the vapours while those donning hazmat suits used sponges to soak up the spilled chemicals.

People trapped in the mini-bus were given masks and evacuated, and the injured drivers of the car and tanker were taken away in stretchers.

Boats from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and SCDF were also dispatched to retrieve the fallen barrels of hydrochloric acid and prevent the spread of the chemicals in the sea.

The 1.5 hour exercise was the 10th such joint effort organised by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Department of Environment Malaysia, as part of a bilateral cooperation programme under the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment.

Singaporean agencies which participated in the exercise included SCDF, the Singapore Police Force, the MPA and the NEA.

Each year, about 110,000 tonnes of hazardous chemicals are transported between Singapore and Malaysia through the Second Link. While there has been no accident in the their transportation so far, NEA's chief executive Ronnie Tay stressed the importance of emergency preparedness exercises.

"Such exercises serve to enhance the interoperability and readiness of the relevant agencies in our two countries, in responding to any chemical spill incident on the Second Link in a prompt, co-ordinated and effective manner," said Mr Tay.