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Water scarcity plagues Hanoi residents after polluted tap water episode

Thursday, October 17, 2019, 16:49 GMT+7
Water scarcity plagues Hanoi residents after polluted tap water episode
Residents at an apartment complex in Hoang Mai District, Hanoi wait for their turn to receive fresh water on October 16, 2019. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

Residents in many neighborhoods of Hanoi had to queue up for long hours during the day and night on Wednesday and Thursday to receive fresh water after a local company cut off water supply to deal with an episode of polluted tap water that broke out last week.

The Song Da Water Investment JSC (Viwasupco), which supplies water to several districts in the western part of Hanoi, stopped its supply on Tuesday and Wednesday, causing severe water shortage in the districts of Hoai Duc, Hoang Mai, Thanh Xuan, and Nam Tu Liem.

In a letter sent to the municipal authorities and its customers, Viwasupco stated that the water cut is meant for the company to focus on cleansing its pipelines after its water source became polluted last week.

Residents at an apartment complex in Hoang Mai District, Hanoi wait for their turn to receive fresh water on October 16, 2019. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

Residents at an apartment complex in Hoang Mai District, Hanoi wait for their turn to receive fresh water on October 16, 2019. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

Affected residents said the tap water in their homes began smelling like chlorine and burnt plastic on Thursday last week.

After conducting an examination which included lab tests of water samples taken from these homes, local authorities announced on Tuesday that the concentration of styrene in the water “exceeds standards," without clarifying its health effects.

A tanker truck is mobilized to carry fresh water to a residential area in Hanoi. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

A tanker truck is mobilized to carry fresh water to a residential area in Hanoi. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

The pollution occurred after a truck reportedly dumped waste oil into a stream in Hoa Binh Province, about 60 kilometers west of Hanoi, on the night of October 8.

Due to a downpour later that night, the oil quickly spread to a nearby canal, which led water from the Da (Black) River into a water treatment plant of Viwasupco.

The firm had its employees remove the oil by skimming it but failed to report the oil spill to competent agencies.

People queue for clean water in the rain in Hanoi. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

People queue for clean water in the rain in Hanoi. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

Hoa Binh police officers have initiated a manhunt for the truck driver to assist the investigation.

Regarding the water cut, local water companies Viwaco and Hawaco have been mobilizing tanker trucks to bring fresh water to residential areas in the affected districts since Tuesday night.

Residents were seen making long lines as they carried empty bottles, buckets, and other types of containers to wait for their turn to receive the precious water.

The queues lasted well into the evening, despite a teeming rain.

People queue for clean water in the rain in Hanoi. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

People queue for clean water in the rain in Hanoi. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

Demands for bottled water also skyrocketed due to the water scarcity.

As of Thursday morning, many grocery and convenient stores in the affected Hanoi neighborhoods said that their bottled water products had sold out.

“We had to wake up early to purchase the products as they are usually out of stock in the afternoon,” said Anh Tho, a resident in Hoang Mai District.

Children help their parents carry clean water in Hanoi. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

Children help their parents carry clean water in Hanoi. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

Despite inflated prices brought about by the high demand, bottled water still sold like hotcakes in Hanoi, a store owner stated.

Viwasupco announced on Wednesday night that the water supply had resumed.

However, residents in the areas are still advised to refrain from using the tap water for cooking until authorities confirm that the water resource is completely safe, according to online newspaper VnExpress.

Children help their parents carry clean water in Hanoi. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

Children help their parents carry clean water in Hanoi. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

Two women carry a bucket of fresh water back to their apartment in Hanoi. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

Two women carry a bucket of fresh water back to their apartment in Hanoi. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

Residents line up at an apartment complex in Ha Dong District, Hanoi. Photo: Hoang Thanh Tung / Tuoi Tre

Residents line up at an apartment complex in Ha Dong District, Hanoi. Photo: Hoang Thanh Tung / Tuoi Tre

Residents at an apartment complex in Hoang Mai District, Hanoi wait for their turn to receive fresh water on October 16, 2019. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

Residents at an apartment complex in Hoang Mai District, Hanoi wait for their turn to receive fresh water on October 16, 2019. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

A man delivers bottled water to his buyers. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

A man delivers bottled water to his buyers. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

Residents purchase bottled water in Hanoi on October 17, 2019. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

Residents purchase bottled water in Hanoi on October 17, 2019. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

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