The Saigon Times Daily
The fire broke out at Kwong Lung – Meko garment factory in Tra Noc 1 Industrial Park in Can Tho City at around 9:13 a.m. last Thursday, and firefighters of the city arrived at the scene just two minutes later. However, it took as long as 25 hours to put out the inferno at the five-storey factory, when most had been destroyed, with property damage estimated at US$6 million.
The good news is that there were no casualties, and that the factory had been insured by an international company with a maximum insurance payout of roughly US$25 million. The bad news is apparently the low effectiveness in firefighting, which could be attributed to the low level of readiness on the part of the local fire department.
Colonel Tran Dinh Duc, deputy director of the Can Tho Fire Department, plays down criticisms over the poor performance by his firefighters.
In fact, apart from the timely response with scores of firefighting engines sent to the scene soon after the news, the Can Tho Fire Department also managed to mobilize firefighting equipment from three neighboring provinces, and even the Fire Department of HCMC, nearly 200km from Can Tho, also sent fire engines with 50 firefighters to lend a helping hand. Such collaboration and cooperation can heap praise.
The key reason behind the protracted rescue, says Colonel Tran Dinh Duc, is the shortage of water to douse the inferno though Can Tho City lies in a an area crisscrossed by rivers and canals.
The water pond inside the doomed factory contained little water at the time, and water supply in Tra Noc 1 had low pressure and thus could not provide enough water for firefighting. The firefighters could not extract water from the Hau River, less than 500 meters away, because there was no station taking water directly from there. Firefighters had to pump water from a small rivulet nearby.
In addition, the garment factory was built with a dome, making it difficult for firefighters to spray water inside, said the deputy chief of the Can Tho fire brigade.
Such explanations are meant to reject accusations over their poor performance. However, they also point to the low level of readiness at the local firefighting agency.
Numerous questions can be raised. Why can it be accepted that no pumping station is established along the Hau River? How can structures that may cause difficulties for firefighting like the dome at the garment factory be allowed? How regular are inspections done to ensure that water for firefighting inside each factory is sufficient? What level is required for water pressure in industrial parks for firefighting?
To minimize impacts of accidents, which are not limited to firefighting, Murphy’s Law can apply: “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.”
The Saigon Times Daily