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Chemical fears trigger run on bottled water in northeast China

07-30-2010 10:24 BJT

HARBIN, July 29 (Xinhua) -- Residents in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province are rushing to buy bottled water after thousands of barrels of chemicals were swept into the upper reaches of the Songhuajiang River in Jilin Province.

The incident has revived memories of the contamination of the Songhuajiang River in 2005 after an explosion at a petrochemical plant in Jilin Province left 3.8 million people in Harbin, the provincial capital of Heilongjiang, without drinking water for four days.

People were gathering in grocery stores and supermarkets to buy bottled water although the governments of Harbin and Jiamusi cities along the Songhuajiang River said domestic water supplies no longer came from the river.

Prices of bottled water have surged in some wholesale markets and grocery stores after the government said the water flow would enter Harbin in five or six days.

The wholesale price of "Kangshifu" mineral water has risen from 20 yuan (2.95 U.S. dollars) per box of eight bottles (1.5L/bottle) to 25 yuan, and "Nanbowan" brand from 7 yuan a box of 12 bottles(550ml/bottle) to more than 10 yuan, said a grocery store manager surnamed Yang, who was purchasing at the Liushunjie Mineral Water Wholesale Market of Harbin.

"As all producer stocks have been sent to Jilin Province, we have to raise the price as the demand has sharply increased," said a salesperson at the market.

Grocery store managers said some wholesalers were withholding stock in the hope that prices would soar further.

"I bought six boxes of water from the supermarket just in case," said taxi driver Liu Tao, 34.

"I thought my friends were joking when they told me to buy mineral water in 2005, but later as the water ran out, I couldn't get it at any price," Liu said.


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