Bangladesh

Massive oil spill feared as train plunges in Ctg canal

 

 

A freight train carrying furnace oil from Chittagong derailed at Boalkhali upazila in Chittagong yesterday at around 1:30 pm. Two of its wagons plunged into a canal. Locals say that a huge amount of furnace oil has spilled out from the plunged tankers.

Though a wagon usually contains 25,000 litres of oil, the exact amount of spill could not be known immediately. The train was headed for Dohazari Peaking Power Plant. It had seven wagons. The derailment took place because a berth of the Bridge No. 24 near Dhalghat Railway Station broke down.   “The engine of the train had crossed the bridge.

However, two wagons fell into the canal,” said Zafar Alam, In-Charge of Gomdandi Railway Station at Boalkhali upazila. The accident left two injured, the train driver Shahidullah and a helper. The identity of the helper has not been ascertained. Two officials of Bangladesh Railway (East Zone) have been suspended temporarily for negligence.

They are, Additional Executive Engineer Abdul Halim and Sub Assistant Engineer Akhter Ahmed. Meanwhile, Bangladesh Railway (East Zone) has formed a three-member committee headed by Chief Mechanical Engineer Harunur Rashid to probe the accident. The probe committee has been asked to submit its report in three working days.

Talking to The Independent, Mofizur Rahman, Divisional Manager of Bangladesh Railway, said that a relief train had reached the accident spot and they were working to put the train back on track.
Asked about the extent of the oil spill, the divisional manager could not provide details.  “I cannot say anything exactly, as we are busy on the spot.

The probe committee will investigate the reasons and the extent of damage in the derailment,” he said. According to BR sources, two wagons of the furnace oil-carrying train are completely in the canal while one is in it partially. Till the filing of this report, recovery operations were going on. Three major accidents involving oil-carrying trains have taken place in the last three years in the Chittagong region.

This poses a serious threat to the environment and the water bodies in particular. On July 9, 2014 too, a freight train carrying furnace oil from Patenga derailed at Sitakunda in Chittagong and spilt around 21,255 gallons of crude oil, most of which went into a canal. Earlier, on July 30, 2013, train services on Chittagong-Dohazari route were disrupted after three oil-carrying wagons of a freight train derailed in Baruapara area of Boalkhali upazila in Chittagong. After every oil-spill accident, the railway authorities form ‘customary’ probe committees and suspend some employees temporarily. However, the accidents continue to happen.

In the latest accident that took place yesterday, two officials of Bangladesh Railway (East Zone)—Additional Executive Engineer Abdul Halim and Sub Assistant Engineer Akhter Ahmed—were suspended temporarily for
negligence.

The derailment accident on June 9, 2014, took place as the train’s loco master had violated signals. After the accident railway authorities suspended Loco Master Uttam Kumar Bhattacharya and Assistant Loco Master Didar Hossain on charges of violating signals.

When contacted, Mokbul Hossain, Director, Department of Environment (DoE), Chittagong Division told The Independent that oil spills have a long-term negative impact on the environment.

“The government is going to undertake a contingency plan regarding oil spills. However, we are looking into this matter with all seriousness. We will take punitive measures if anybody is found guilty,” added Hossain.

Md Manzoorul Kibria, a zoologist and Associate Professor of Zoology Department, Chittagong University, said, “In case of any large-scale oil spill, the overall aquatic biodiversity will be at a severe risk. Since furnace oil is not water soluble, the amount of oxygen in the water will decrease drastically when oil forms a layer over the water and prevents the sunlight to pass through.

Being deprived of sunlight, it will be very difficult for the aquatic creatures—including fishes, zooplankton and phytoplankton—to survive.” Kibria also fears that any spill of furnace oil could have an adverse impact on biodiversity, as well as creating a massive and prolonged impact on cultivable lands. Mohammad Idris, Associate Professor, Chittagong College and a green activist also said that any large-scale spill would have an adverse impact on the biodiversity of canals and rivers.

Idris added, “The authorities carrying furnace oil should be very cautious that spillage does not take place as this might result in a long-term negative impact on the aquatic biodiversity.”

Earlier, the DoE had cautioned Bangladesh Railway and Dohazari Peaking Power Plant about the oil spill in the Karnaphuli River that took place on July 30, 2013, following a rail accident in the Kalurghat area of the city. Six wagons had derailed near the Kalurghat Bridge on its way to Dohazari Peaking Power Plant in that accident and more than 1 lakh litres of furnace oil had flowed into the Karnaphuli River.

The DoE officials say that they had given two directives to the authorities, apart from warning them when Divisional Engineer of the Bangladesh Railway (BR) Abidur Rahman and Manager of the Dohazari Peaking Power Plant Arifur Rahman appeared before the department in response to summons.

The authorities of DoE, Chittagong, had directed the BR and power plant officials to take necessary steps to renovate the rail track and carry fuel in bottom-delivery tankers instead of the currently used top-delivery tankers.

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