Fishing activities

CHEMICAL SPILL | The public is warned against water activities on the Davao River until it is declared safe

AUTHORITIES have warned the public against swimming, fishing or washing clothes in the Davao River and its tributaries following a chemical spill after a tank truck fell into a cliff in Lower Lanitum, Barangay Suawan, Marilog District at around 11:44 p.m. Monday.

Photo courtesy of Davao City Central 911.

According to the initial report, the truck driver attempted to avoid an oncoming vehicle and swerved into the lamp post. Eventually the vehicle careened down to the 50 foot creek that connects to the Suawan River.

The truck was carrying caustic soda, a highly corrosive chemical. Unfortunately, the unidentified driver couldn’t get out of it when his assistant was already out of danger.

Caustic soda, also known as lye, is the common name for sodium hydroxide. Exposure to high concentrations of caustic soda can cause severe burns to skin, eyes and internal organs. It can also cause death or permanent damage.

In an interview with the Davao City Disaster RadioAlfredo Baloran, from the Davao Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, said: “His page trace nato, naa nangamatay na isda sa tributary her Suawan River (When we traced [the spill]we confirmed a fish kill at the tributary of the Suawan River).

He said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources had already taken water samples to examine the extent of the contamination. He also asked people to refrain from cooking dead fish they find on the river.

Baloran said the chemical spill was minimal and the Bureau of Fire-Special Rescue Force had already cordoned off and contained the area.

“We have already contained the chemicals, but we fear the impact of a heavy downpour, which could cause the chemical to spill downstream,” he said.

Nevertheless, he has already coordinated with police station commanders to help alert all barangays, especially houses straddling the river and its tributaries, to refrain from recreational activities.

According to Central 911, the Urban Search and Rescue unit cleared the two men from being trapped in the truck at 7:52 a.m. Wednesday. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene, while the emergency medical services team treated the other victim, who refused to go to hospital.