Taipei (Taiwan News) -- The last embers of a massive inferno that broke out in a tire factory in Taoyuan City's Zhongli District at 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon were finally extinguished at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, with overhead drone video footage showing nothing left but a blackened, flat patch of land where the plant once stood.
The fire department announced that an aerial survey of the area revealed that a large swath of Federal Corp's facility had been torched beyond recognition, exacerbating forensic experts' already difficult task of determining the cause of the fire.
Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) said that carbon particles dispersed by the fire were mainly concentrated in Pingzhen District and officials have been dispatched to schools in Zhongli and Pingzhen districts to assess any impact from the fire. In addition, fire department water tankers are assisting Zhongli and Pingzhen waste disposal teams begin cleanup operations, with the cleaning of schools and public parks the top priority.
Zhongli and Pingzhen district offices and health clinics provided masks to the public. They also instructed area schools to stop or reduce outdoor activities to avoid inhaling too many carbon particles, which could result in respiratory problems and other related discomfort.
In response to fears expressed by some on social media of a "toxic cloud" and acid rain resulting from the blaze, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that although the tire factory fire increased the concentration of suspended particulates and nitrogen dioxide in the air, it still met the air quality standard, and such pollutants would gradually disperse over the course of the morning.
At its height, the EPA said that smoke from the fire rose 1 kilometer in the air and particulate matter was detected on surfaces within 300 meters of the site. Some residual dust may drift to the southwest after the early morning, with main areas affected being Zhongli, Pingzhen, and Yangmei districts, as well as Hsinchu, according to the EPA.
As for acid rain, the EPA said that rain is not in the forecast until Thursday at the earliest, and in the meantime, winds blowing in from the Taiwan Strait should disperse most of the residual particles from the fire before that time.
However, there is a concern about contamination by dioxins that could have been released by the tires as they burned, for that reason the EPA has started taking soil samples in the surrounding area. It will take four days to complete the analysis of the soil samples.