Khabarovsk Has 10 Days of Water

APA man getting drinking water from a pump in Khabarovsk on Thursday.
KHABAROVSK -- The fear eastern city of Khabarovsk, in the path of a huge toxic spill from a Chinese plant explosion, has enough drinking water reserves to last more than 10 days, Deputy Mayor Andrei Vologzhanin said Thursday.

Vologzhanin said authorities would cut off the collection of water from the Amur River only in the case of a very high concentration of benzene and other chemicals once the slick hits the city. The city's water reserves for industrial use are sufficient for just three days, Itar-Tass reported.

The Far East Meteorological and Environmental Monitoring Service said that the spill -- the result of an explosion at a Chinese chemical plant on Nov. 13 -- was now expected to arrive in Khabarovsk, a city of 580,000, by about Dec. 15.

Khabarovsk residents said they were coping with conflicting reports about when the slick would arrive, and wondering how long they would have to go without water when it does.

"No one knows anything," said Lidiya Vladimirova, 65, shoveling snow near the small telephone station where she works on the bank of the Amur. "Nowadays, who's going to take care of you? You need to take care of yourself." Vladimirova said she washed her hands with tap water and then rinsed them again with other water she had stockpiled at home -- filling every possible container in case authorities switch off the taps.

With mistrust and rumors swirling, the city government is releasing daily notices in newspapers and on television, trying to assure residents their water is safe -- for now.

"People remember Chernobyl, when the government did not say anything for days or warn residents. ... Now they accuse the government of not telling the truth," said regional government spokeswoman Natalya Zimina.

Some 117 trucks -- from new fire engines to water tankers -- will be deployed across Khabarovsk to provide water to critical institutions such as hospitals. Bread factories have stockpiled water and will keep running.