Plastics Factory Fire a Major Pollution Incident: Smoke Visible from Space

[Cover Picture: Instant Weather Facebook Group.]

A fire at a plastics factory in Pingtung County has caused a major pollution incident with a black cloud drifting all the way to Kaohsiung City and Tainan City, and is said to be visible from space.

The fire broke out at around 7:00am this morning, July 5, in a factory in Guangan village, Wandan Township, Pingtung County. Pingtung County Fire Bureau dispatched 20 fire appliances and 55 firefighters to battle the blaze.

A black pall of smoke drifted as far as Tainan City. Experts warned that the smoke may contain dioxin, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and other harmful and carcinogenic substances produced by burning plastic.

However, a Pingtung County Government spokesperson Huang Jianjia (黃建嘉) said the initial measurements from samples taken at the scene shows that the materials used to produce plastic pallets at the factory are polyethylene and polypropylene and therefore the smoke will contain mostly methane and carbon monoxide, with a low probability of producing dioxin. Huang said that weather conditions are favorable for dispersion, with the smoke not likely to affect the lower atmosphere and urged people not to panic.

diagram showing area affected by smoke pollution from a burning plastics factory in Pingtung County
Diagram showing area affected by smoke pollution from a burning plastics factory in Pingtung County. Picture: Taiwan Typhoon Forum.

Taiwan typhoon Forum founder Chen Bohong uploaded a video showing the pall of smoke visible from Japanese meteorological satellite Sunflower No. 8. Chen warned people living in Kaohsiung and Tainan to pay special attention. With afternoon thunderstorms imminent, he warned people not to go out in the rain to avoid toxic substances.

Environmental protection bureaus in the affected counties are coordinating to monitor and take protective measures.


Video: Rick Carlile

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