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UN Environment OCHA Joint Unit Mission Report – 2005 China Petrochemical plant explosion

Mission Report

This mission report describes the activities of a expert team deployed by the UN Environment/OCHA Joint Unit following a petrochemical plant explosion in China.

An explosion at a petrochemical plant in Jilin, China, resulted in the release of an estimated 100 tons of toxic liquids, including benzene, aniline and nitrobenzene, into the Songhua River, which forms a natural border with the Russian Federation. The Songhua River spill was probably one of the largest transboundary chemical incidents in a river system in recent years. In response, the JEU offered assistance to the Governments of China and Russia, putting experts and mobile analysis equipment on stand-by. Although the authorities of both countries did not request international assistance, the Chinese State Environmental Protection Administration invited an expert team from UN Environment to the affected area. The team visited the major affected cities, where they talked with local officials about the recent incident and the measures taken for protecting public health and the environment. They also presented recommendations for the prevention of a similar occurrence. These included establishing a joint river basin commission and undertaking a lessons-learned exercise.

“While we are constantly working on strengthening the international system in order to better be prepared to respond to environmental emergencies, efforts are also being made to assist countries in preventing accidents from happening. In the long run preparedness measures such as training staff on safety regulations in the work place not only save resources, but by making it less likely that accidents happen, also lower the risks to human health and livelihoods” said Vladimir Sakharov, Chief of the JEU at the time.

Consult the report here.

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