Sixty one gas stations in Ho Chi Minh City remain open despite being ordered to shut down in 2006 for lack of a license, according to the city Department of Industry and Commerce.
One of them, at 622 Binh Long Street, Tan Phu District, ostensibly shut down December 22. But a few days later it was discovered to be selling gasoline clandestinely.
A district official said the city people’s committee would force the unlicensed gas stations to close.
One hundred and eight others were granted temporary licenses to operate from 2007 to 2010, subject to further extension, since their facilities were not up to standard.
There are around 500 service stations in the city.
Recently, a video clip on Tuoi Tre Online showed some employees at two Vietnam National Petroleum Corp gas stations in the city fleecing customers by tampering with the pumps. They were fired by the company.
Last month the city Market Management Board said seven other gas stations were found supplying low-quality gasoline and using illegal electronic chips to cheat customers.
Fear of toxic additives in food
Medical experts believe one of the causes of cancer in the world is the rampant use of harmful chemicals and additives in food.
As Tet (lunar New Year) holiday approaches, wholesale markets such as Binh Tay, Ben Thanh, An Dong and Kim Bien begin selling jams and dry fruits without labels, giving no indication of their origin and manufacturing base.
Shop assistants claim these dry fruits and jams are imported from China but it is not clear whether these foods have been certified by health authorities. These dry fruits could contain toxic substances and are being sold to innocent customers who favor their taste.
Last year the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health (DOH) did a random test of six dry fruit samples from three vendors at the Binh Tay wholesale market in District 6.
The authorities found five samples to contain lead and a banned artificial sweetener, Cyclamate. Tests also showed that melon seeds and chilli powder contained Rhodamine B, a harmful dye suspected of being carcinogenic.
Medics believe that eating food contaminated with lead over a long period of time can cause damage to the nervous system, impair brain function, cause kidney failure and in extreme cases even lead to death.
However, these products continue to sell in markets heedless of their harmful affects on health. Customers are lured by their eye catching and colorful appearance and packaging.
The city DOH has ordered the district 5 People’s Committee to monitor Kim Bien market and identify shops that sell toxic foods, but there has been little success in that area. Besides, chefs preparing food items are not aware of the harmful affects of such chemicals and therefore use them in excess.
Medical experts stress that it is now very important to control the inflow of smuggled chemicals and also prevent banned additives from being imported into the country.
Tonnes of farm fish found dead
More than 150 tonnes of red tilapias have died en masse in the past week in Cao Lanh District in the southern province of Dong Thap, resulting in losses of VND35 billion (US$1.7 million) for aquaculture farmers.
Red tilapias are the world's most popular farmed fish. They are fast growing and low in mercury.
The dead fish were being raised by 41 households along the Can Lo River. It was the first time such a disaster has occurred.
"Tests on the fish and water samples reveal the deaths were caused by frequent ebb tides and the high densities of fish kept caged in pens," said Vu Thi Nhung, head of the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment's Environmental Protection Division.
The tests were conducted by the department and Can Tho University. Nhung added that ebb tides created high amounts of organic substances in the water, which helped make oxygen levels below regulated levels.
The density of the fish in pens was 130-200 per square metre, much higher than the 90-150.
"The more organic substances deposited, the less oxygen in the water. This is what killed them," said Nhung.
She added that the department did not have any plan to support local farmers who lost their fish. But it will hold training courses to make sure farmers understand the proper technology for raising the fish.
Two passengers killed as truck smashes bus in Dak Nong
At least two people died and 14 others were seriously injured when a truck crashed into a passenger bus which then tumbled down a cliff in the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong early Thursday.
The truck traveling along the National Highway No 14 hit the 32-seat bus on its side, causing the bus to overturn and fall off a cliff.
Two passengers died on the spot, including a three-month-old baby boy. Fourteen other people, including the bus driver, were seriously injured.
The truck continued to hit another passenger bus, damaging its back; luckily, its 30 passengers were unharmed.
Local police arrived at the scene to take the injured passengers to hospital.
The truck was driven by Nguyen Ngoc My, 34, hailing from the southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province.
Four-legged ‘snake’ found in An Giang
A man in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang said Wednesday he had caught a strange-looking reptile that looks like a snake with four legs.
Curious crowds have rushed to the house of Nguyen Ngoc Huynh of Chau Thanh District to see the 15-cm “snake.”
The reptile is as big as a chopstick, with yellow and shiny skin.
Huynh said it can move and swim with its four legs.
Local residents said it may be a rare lizard species called Lygosoma angeli found in Vietnam.
The species is commonly known as angel's writhing skink, which refers to the way these stubby-legged animals move, snake-like but slower and more awkward.
Fire destroys HCMC plastic plant
A fire burned down 900 square meters of warehouse and consumed 30 tones of plastic pellets at a plant belonging to the Thai Hoa Limited Company in Ho Chi Minh City’s Binh Chanh district at 2:15 PM yesterday.
It is estimated to cause a loss of VND2 billion ($100,000). Luckily no human casualty was reported.
The flame, thought to spread to 2,500 square meters in just a minute, was extinguished after two hours after 9 firefighting trucks and 70 firemen arrived.
The factory experienced another fire back in 2006.
Two hours earlier on the same day, another fire also occurred to a small lubricant oil production and recycling facility in Hoc Mon district in the city.
People in the neighborhood freaked out when some oil containers blew off causing big explosions.
But the blaze was controlled after an hour and no one was hurt.
The causes of the two fires are under investigation.
Travel club debuts for Thai tourists
A club of 30 travel companies, mostly in central Vietnam that cater to Thai travelers, made debut in Danang city Tuesday.
Its mission is to strengthen cooperation among member companies to improve services, prevent price undercutting, and boost tourism promotion targeting Thai visitors to the country.
The members will contribute funds to promotional programs aimed at presenting a common voice against unfair competition and bettering service standards for Thai tourists travelling to the country via border gates in the central region like Cau Treo, Cha Lo, Lao Bao and Nam Can.
Member companies will set the minimum prices for three popular overland tours tailored for Thai tourists in the central region, whose number has seen an upsurge in recent years.
The price frame will take effect on January, 1.
The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) estimated 200,000 Thai tourists will arrive in the country this year.
One more of sunken Van Don 02 saved, 11 still missing
Another man from the cargo vessel Van Don 02, which sank on the southern part of East Sea on December 28, has been saved. This now takes the rescued crewmembers to 12. However, another 11 people from the ship are still missing.
Do Thanh Tu, 26, from Hai Phong City was saved by fishing boat number 95690 on December 29, said Do Trieu Quang, the owner of the Van Don 02.
Mr Quang, director of the Quang Ninh Sea Transport, Import and Export Joint Stock Company, also added that Tu’s health is still rather weak.
Earlier on December 28, 11 members of the vessel were saved by two fishing boats from the southern province of Kien Giang.
Pham Xuan Thuy, deputy director of the company said that the sinking incident might have been caused by a tornado, triggered by a low-pressure system.
The remaining crewmembers that were lost at sea have been identified and they are mainly from Quang Ninh, Hai Phong, Thai Binh, Ha Noi and Ha Nam.