SINGAPORE – Motorists kept their distance as rescue teams wearing hazmat suits descended on Tuas Second Link on Wednesday (Sept 25) morning to “contain” a chemical spill at the site.

It was an emergency drill to test the response in the event of an accident involving a lorry carrying drums of hydrochloric acid and a tanker filled with ammonia gas.

Conducted as part of the bilateral cooperation programme under the auspices of the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment, the exercise was the 12th drill since 2000 to test the effectiveness of an Emergency Response Plan jointly developed by Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) and Malaysia’s Department of Environment (DOE).

The latest drill began with the Singapore Police Force being notified of the accident at 10am, kickstarting a series of events involving agencies from both countries responding to the emergency.

There were two designated casualties at the accident scene – an unconscious lorry driver who had apparently suffered a heart attack and the tanker driver who had collapsed on the road after inhaling toxic fumes.

A total of 11 agencies and 150 personnel from both countries were involved in the exercise.

NEA chief executive officer Tan Meng Dui reiterated the importance of the drill.

He said: “The continued success of this collaboration highlights the commitment of agencies from both countries to ensure a prompt and effective response to any chemical spill incident at the Tuas Second Link. It also serves to improve mutual understanding and get both sides used to working together to address any incidents with potential environmental impact.”

The hour-long drill ended with the casualties safely evacuated and the affected area decontaminated.

DOE director-general Norlin Jaafar said rescuers and agencies from both countries were able to work as a team. She disclosed that initially the drill was a “table top” exercise but has since been conducted with more realism on the ground.

Ms Norlin fully supported the exercises conducted over the years.

She said: “This is to enhance the coordination between the two countries regarding the emergency response procedures, and to allow early notification on any incident involving vehicles transporting chemicals on the second crossing.”

Each year, about 160,000 tonnes of hazardous chemicals are transported between Malaysia and Singapore via the Tuas Second Link. So far, there has not been a chemical spill incident in the area.