Chinese Peacekeepers Avert Disaster In Zwedru
By: J. Grody Dorbor, I
Posted July 1, 2004
The Chinese Engineering Contingent serving in the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) on Monday, June 21, averted a major disaster that could have claimed many lives and livestock in the provisional capital of Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, by disposing of a quantity of contaminated chlorine.
The chlorine which was contained in two cylinders, according to reports, had been stored in the Liberia Water and Sewer Zwedru Sub-office since 1989. Investigation confirmed that the chlorine was intended to purify the water being supplied in the city at the time of the outbreak of the Liberian civil war on December 24, 1989.
Residents told this paper in Zwedru that this poisonous substance leaked on June 16 & 17 thereby polluting the whole city. Over 500 residents of the Zwe end Liberia Water and Sewer Community where the Ethiopian peacekeepers reside, had to abandon their homes. Authorities of the Suah Memorial Institute were also forced to suspend classes for about a week.
Vegetables, grass and trees in the immediate environs of the LWSC premises were also affected.
Frustratingly, most of those who fled the chlorine polluted communities for safety, had their homes looted by criminals. Several residents including the principal of the Suah Memorial Institute, Ms. Annie Dennis, are undergoing treatment as a result of the chlorine pollution.
As a result, the acting superintendent of Grand Gedeh County, Peter G. Boduo appealed to the UNMIL Chinese engineering contingent to dispose of the chlorine.
Following Supt. Boduo’s appeal, several meetings were held involving the county officials, UNMIL higher-ups and the Chinese contingent. The Chinese peacekeepers under the command of Lt/Col. Chu Qinhua accepted the risk to remove and dispose of this dangerous chemical.
Speaking to The INQUIRER in Zwedru shortly after disposing of the chlorine from the store room, Commander Qinhua, said, “we accepted the risk to remove this poisonous chlorine for the sake of the friendly people of Grand Gedeh County.
“This is not part of our peacekeeping mission, but we undertook this risky task as a result of the friendly relations we have built in the shortest time with the people with Supt. Bodu and the residents of Zwedru,” he added.
The exercise was carried out by a 11-man fire fighter team under the command of Lt/Col. Qinhua. They were assisted by two Liberian fire fighters from Roberts International Airport (RIA) Fire & Rescue Services Department including Messrs Rufus D. Zergbo, head and Samson Gray.
Commander Qinhua told Supt. Bodu that this was the beginning of this contingent assistance and cooperation with the people of Grand Gedeh County as well as the Southeastern Region, adding, “we will do more for the people.”
According to Lt/ Col. Qinhua his contingent’s slogan is, “Constructing road and bridges for the happiness of the Liberian people. Deepen the Friendship between China and Liberia on the way to peace and development.”
He told the county authorities that the two cylinders which contained the leaking chlorine were buried in a pit, four meters deep, after weakening the dangerous substance with a chemical called “white-lime.”
Expressing the people’s delight for the Chines gesture, Supt. Bodu lauded the peacekeepers for a job well done, adding, “your quick intervention has saved thousands of lives in Zwedru.”
Speaking earlier, the head of The RIA fire team, Mr. Zergbo described the chlorine spill as very dangerous that could affect the eyes and lung of residents of the city.
The UNMIL Engineering contingent commander also visited the site and praised the Chinese Engineer Contingent for preventing the looming danger that hang over the Zwedru City. Zwedru is the headquarter of Sector-4 of UNMIL and it has more than 5000 residents.
In Monrovia, the authorities at the LWSC regretted the incident sincerely and thanked the peacekeepers for their intervention.
Mr. Augustine Saydee, Deputy Managing Director for Administration, said the management of LWSC will this week dispatch an assessment team to Zwedru and other areas on assessment of its facilities.