Lessons from the Tianjin blasts

There are lessons to be learnt from the recent Tianjin blasts ("Blasts rock Tianjin, killing 50"; Aug 14 , "Tonnes of cyanide stored at Tianjin blast site"; Aug 17, "Tianjin tragedy must not repeat itself"; last Friday, and "Safety hazards at Beijing chemical firms"; last Saturday).

A similar tragedy may happen in any part of the world if proper processes and stringent regulations are absent when handling hazardous materials.

Hazardous materials can be stored only at specific sites well away from residences, especially in densely populated areas.

Such sites have to be patrolled round the clock so that help can be activated by the guards as soon as possible when an incident occurs.

The types of materials stored must be tracked and well documented with the authorities so that in the case of any mishap, appropriate and effective measures can be promptly administered.

A contingency plan to evacuate victims or convey them to the nearest hospital has to be in place, as this will reduce the number of casualties when tragedy strikes.

In the worst-case scenario of an explosion due to the hazardous materials, the rescue service from the fire brigade in the vicinity can be activated quickly, armed with prior knowledge of the types of hazardous materials the firefighters will be dealing with.

Lim Lih Mei (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline 'Lessons from the Tianjin blasts'. Print Edition | Subscribe