The acid spill

Apart from the election, the biggest event lately has been the acid spill at Dili port. It has taken a few days to piece the bits together but I think it goes like this.

A container was dumped at the port (last weekend ?) containing over 20,000 litres of acid which was leaking. This resulted in closure of the port area (for about 3 days) to the general public and evacuation of surrounding areas including guests at Hotel Timor and the Kiwi soldiers from their base next door. The IDP camp between Hotel Timor and the port was asked to evacuate but they refused , claiming it was a ploy to get them out.

At one point, the nature of the acid was not certain so a conservative approach was taken. Experts from Australia were called in and confirmed it was HCl (hydrochloric acid) so the no-go zone was reduced after a couple of days.

Most of the acid leaked into the sea where it would be rendered harmless. Sea water contains salts, the main one being NaCl (ie sodium chloride) and anyone who has done school chemistry should know that HCl plus NaOH (ie sodium hydroxide) produces salt (NaCl) plus water (H2O). There are more than enough free hydroxide ions to allow the HCl to break-down. Other chemicals may not have been so friendly.

At some point, someone announced that one should not eat fish for a few days. This probably explains why a couple of guys I know in the construction industry said their workers refused to eat any fish back at their canteen. The eating recommendation was quickly reversed but too late for some.

It turned out the acid was on its way from Indonesia to Australia but when a leak was discovered, it was off-loaded in Dili. It highlights the fact that the port probably had no protocols for dealing with this sort of problem, the ship did not know how to handle it and the acid was probably stored in an unsafe manner in the container and possibly not identified correctly.

I believe the ISF (ie OZ component of the international security force) managed the clean-up.

Feel free to correct me if I got anything wrong here.

One thought on “The acid spill

  1. Thanks for the info on Dili. Useful info. I have family there and worry about ’em news is not always accurate and it is helpful to have one extra set eyes on that part of the planet.


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