Officials fear new storm as supplies of deicer run low

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Officials fear new storm as supplies of deicer run low

After the unprecedented snowfall this week, it wasn’t just ordinary drivers who abandoned their cars in the middle of the roads. Even celebrities had no option but to take overcrowded subways.

Now local governments report that if more snow comes, the chances of rubbing elbows with celebs will be even higher.

The reason: a shortage of deicer used to clear the streets.

Municipal and district governments are running out of calcium chloride and they are making desperate efforts to secure enough for the rest of the winter.

The Daegu city government on Tuesday received a one-page letter from Deokjin District Office in Jeonju, North Jeolla, asking for a big favor: Deokjin wanted to borrow 200 tons of calcium chloride with the promise that it would return the same amount by the end of the month.

In Jeonju city, Wansan and Deokjin district offices had 500 tons of calcium chloride on hand before the storm. Now, only 30 percent of it remains. Officials at the local governments are concerned.

Without getting more calcium chloride, they cannot deal with another major storm, an official said. The Jeonju city government is making plans to buy more deicer from Daegu.

But it’s unclear whether Daegu will help as it is also short of the dwindling resource.

Recently, Daegu had 517 tons of calcium chloride on hand, more than tripled the 160 tons it usually uses in a year. But when Daegu was hit by the storm, the city found that it had used 350 tons on Monday alone.

“We don’t have any room for lending calcium chloride to other municipal governments because there’s a weather forecast that more snow will come and we’re running out of stock,” said Lee Sang-yong, a Daegu city government official.

Though the demand for calcium chloride continues to grow, supplies are short.

Metropolitan areas and South Jeolla are in bad shape. Gyeonggi had 35,750 tons of calcium chloride before the storm. It used over 80 percent it to clear its streets.

Hwaseong in Gyeonggi used all 511 tons of its calcium chloride. Uijeongbu and Pyeongtaek in Gyeonggi did the same.

Incheon’s district and county offices prepared over 2,300 tons of calcium chloride. The storm caused them to use 1930 tons of it.

“Local governments are now in a war to secure enough calcium chloride,” said Hong Jun-ho, an Incheon city government official. “We managed to win a promise from a company that it will provide us 1,000 more tons.”

The Seoul city government used 90 percent of its 20,440 ton supply.

“Seoul ordered an extra 3,000 tons of calcium chloride and it offered 100 million won [$88,100] each to district office for supply purchases, so there will be no big problem,” said Go In-seok, a Seoul city government official.

But despite the Seoul city government’s decision to offer the assistance to district offices, some district offices are already out of stock.

Gangbuk District Office has used all of its 1,000 tons.

“We ordered extra bags of calcium chloride, but they are expected to arrive after this Saturday,” said Park Gwang-cheol, an official with Gangbuk District Office. “If snow falls before Saturday, we’re in trouble.”

Local governments are buying calcium chloride from companies registered with the Public Procurement Service, a central government agency in charge of providing the scarce deicer. But most companies listed by the PPS are out of stock.

Of the calcium chloride that is in the domestic market, 70 percent is imported from China and the rest is manufactured in Korea.

Kwak Won-seok, the CEO of Yeonghwa, a company that provides calcium chloride to government offices, said he got orders of 400 tons of calcium chloride, but his hands are tied because his company is also out of stock.

“The weather in China and the west coast is bad and it will be difficult to complete orders this month,” Kwak said.

Others complained that Chinese-imported calcium chloride is poor quality and doesn’t melt snow well. Korean-manufactured calcium chloride costs 370 won per kilogram.

The same amount from China costs 230 won, so many local governments opt for the Chinese product.

Meanwhile, Park Yeon-soo, the Administrator of the National Emergency Management Agency, said yesterday the agency will set up regulations that will enable local governments to slap penalties on people who don’t clean up snow in front of their houses and offices.

Those who don’t do so will be fined up to 1 million won, Park said.

By Kang Kap-Saeng, Kim Mi-ju []

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