S'pore-KL exercise to combat 'toxic spill'

Officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force and the Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department in action during the mock chemical spill at the Tuas Second Link.

SINGAPORE - A major two-nation safety exercise was held on Tuesday morning at the Tuas Second Link.

Simulated poisonous white fumes wafted across three lanes as a notional chemical spill spurred Hazmat teams from Singapore and Malaysia into action.

Traffic in both directions was diverted and backed up, leaving motorists bemused during the one-hour exercise.

But the minor inconvenience was all in the name of safety. The exercise is organised every year or two by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and Malaysia's Department of Environment to test their countries' readiness to tackle such incidents.

Each year, about 110,000 tonnes of hazardous chemicals are moved between the two countries. The land transport of such chemicals is restricted to the Tuas Second Link.

This year's exercise simulated a multi-vehicle accident between two trucks carrying drums of hydrochloric acid, a car and a motorcycle.

Amid wailing sirens and "casualties" lying prone in a scene out of a doomsday film, officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force and the Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department moved in, clad in full Hazmat suits. They swiftly secured and removed the drums, ferried the "injured" away and decontaminated the scene with chemical absorbents.

Both sides left all bases covered, with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore deploying a vessel to ensure no sea leakage, while a helicopter from a Malaysian highway operator assessed conditions from above.

The NEA said the exercise, the ninth since 2000, was "essential to safeguard the safety of commuters". To date, no chemical accidents have occurred on the bridge across the Strait of Johor. It was built in 1998 as the second overland link between Singapore and Malaysia.

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