Seven people have been arrested in southeast China for their roles in the chemical leak that put 52 people in hospital and cost local fisherman millions of dollars in lost revenue, South China Morning Post reports.
The incident happened on November 4 when a tube carrying a mix known as C9 aromatics from a petrochemical firm to a tanker came loose, spilling about 7 tonnes of the toxic liquid into the sea.
According to a statement issued on Thursday by the government of Quangang, a district of Quanzhou in Fujian province, three of the people arrested are employees of Fujian Donggang Petrochemical Company and four are from the tanker, the Tiantong No 1.
They have all been charged with “criminal negligence that caused a serious accident”, the statement said.
A separate notice from the Quangang government said that the people admitted to hospital were treated for pneumonia, nausea and dizziness after inhaling the chemical. Two patients are still being treated for their injuries, it said.
The leak, which created large yellow oil stains on the waters of the Taiwan Strait, has now been cleaned up, the first statement said.
However, Chen Kaihan, a chemist with the Quanzhou Normal University, said that it was likely that small amounts of the chemical would remain in the seawater near the fish farms for months or even years to come.
Fishermen in villages affected by the spill, including Xiaocuo, Shage and Huiyu, are in negotiations with local authorities on a compensation package, but they have yet to reach a settlement.
C9 aromatics is a by-product of the oil refining process. It can cause burns on contact with the skin, and dizziness, nausea and vomiting if inhaled.
Seafood markets and distributors said earlier they were avoiding sourcing stock from fishing villages affected by the spillage for fear of it being contaminated.