Sometimes what doesn’t happen is more newsworthy than what does. In an astonishing turn of events in the chain-smoking People’s Republic of China, a ruptured pipeline leaked a large quantity of diesel fuel, and nobody decided it was the perfect time for a cigarette!
An early morning leak in the Shandong Province town of Liaocheng coated a 500-meter stretch of river with a 10-ton slick. Within a short time, hundreds of locals had flocked to the riverbanks with every scoop, bucket and pan they could get their hands on, determined to harvest as much of the free stuff as possible.
It’s precisely the sort of situation that has plagued Nigeria for the last few years, although in that country the leaks are usually the result of sabotage. Whatever the cause, the inevitable stray spark always manages to set the whole thing ablaze, with murderous results.
But in this case, China’s tobacco-loving citizens exercised an admirable amount of restraint and avoided a conflagration. In the end, the greater threat was the risk of pollution of the community’s drinking water by the leaked fuel. Local officials offered assurances that it wouldn’t be a problem, but as yet, the jury’s still out.