Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Reuters AlertNet - China city residents flee after taps turned off

BEIJING, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Residents of one of China's biggest and coldest cities, where water has been shut off for fear of chemical contamination, are jamming the airport and railway stations to get out, a witness said on Wednesday.

Taps were turned off in Harbin, capital of northeastern Heilongjiang province and famous for its January snow and ice show, at midnight on Tuesday after there had already been panic buying of bottled water and food.

"Everyone wants to leave Harbin and it is very difficult to buy tickets, just like during the Lunar New Year," a factory manager told Reuters.

"All containers are being used to store water, including the bathtub. It will be okay for four days, but not longer than that."

The water supply was shut down after a blast at a chemical plant on Nov. 13 in neighbouring Jilin province only a few hundred metres (yards) from the Songhua River, which supplies water to Harbin, a metropolitan area of nine million people. Five people were killed.

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