national

Container explodes in Tokyo subway car, injuring 14

23 Comments

Fourteen people sustained minor injuries early Saturday morning when a container of an alkaline detergent, belonging to a commuter, exploded.

According to police and firefighters, the incident occurred on the Marunouchi Line as the train pulled in to Hongo-sanchome Station in Bunkyo Ward at 12:20 a.m., Fuji TV reported. As the train doors opened, police say a can being carried by a female passenger exploded, causing panic in the car.

Police say the woman, in her late 20s, told them that she had been given a quantity of a powerful liquid detergent at the restaurant where she worked and that she put it into the can. It is believed that a chemical reaction, caused by shaking, took place which caused the can to explode.

Most of the injured passengers suffered burns to their skin after they were splashed by the liquid, Fuji reported.

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23 Comments
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Considering everything written elsewhere, the substance was probably sodium hydroxide, which anyone that uses it would normally have just a diluted amount. It is highly reactive with aluminum, and can cause the burns seen. The explosion itself was likely a hydrogen explosion.

If it is, as it will likely be stated later, sodium hydroxide, the question will remain as to why this person had undiluted sodium hydroxide and why it was put into an aluminum can despite large labels that warn of chemical reactions with aluminum. Such blatant disregard for safety should be treated as the crime it is.

11 ( +16 / -5 )

Both the restaurant and the woman should have known better, especially the restaurant. Do they store it in aluminum cans there? NO! It's most certainly labeled if it's so dangerous, so this was neglect on their part. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt (so it seems).

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Aluminum is very reactive to certain chemicals due its compound and galvanic reactions. On the surface it is very corrosive resistant but when it is oxidized it may heat up and explode. Maybe this is what happened today. It is sad that people sitting next to her had to endure such painful and unexpected scare. This may caused the skin to blister after the exposure to alkaline. Thank God no one lost their eyesight due to this event. Or so far we don't know that. My prayers go to the people affected by this occurrence.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Will this lead to a typical over-reaction of random body searches at train stations and banning liquids from trains?

The 1995 sarin gas attack didn't result in that kind of body search or ban as far as I know, so I don't know what basis you have for calling that (far-fetched) possibility a "typical over-reaction"?

The commuters in the car must have been terrified- the Marunouchi line was one of the lines affected by Aum's sarin attack and I'm betting it was one of the first things that went through everyone's mind.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Who labelled Sodium hydroxide as "detergent", anyway? This is a powerful alkaline. By the same token, would people call sulphuric acid a "detergent"?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Wow! Thanks basroil for that info. Didn't know that stuff like that can happen....The power of science!

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Of course, it has yet to be established that the liquid was indeed sodium hydroxide and the can aluminium.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yeah, sodium hydroxide. A biology lab at the University of Oregon suffered a pretty good explosion a few years back. Apparently the grad students blamed the reformed soaker prof and the prof blamed the grad students. At any rate, someone allegedly rinsed emptied containers for sodium hydroxide with Oregon's somewhat acidic tap-water, and...boom! And that was just the residue.

What was left after the blast was quickly swept under what was left of the uni's rug--which is the best place for such things, I suppose.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A hydrogen explosion?? Damn!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

WilliBOct. 20, 2012 - 03:48PM JST

Who labelled Sodium hydroxide as "detergent", anyway? This is a powerful alkaline. By the same token, would people call sulphuric acid a "detergent"?

In case you've never bothered with industrial detergents you might have that impression. It is used often because it can strip away fat like nothing else. Also entirely safe on iron, and many restaurants use iron pots/pans. Normally you dilute it to 1% or maybe 5% though, this seems to be a case of 100% thrown into the wrong place. Problem with acids is that they tend to strip the metal and do nothing about the fat, which is why most detergents are alkali.

Harry_GattoOct. 20, 2012 - 04:48PM JST

Of course, it has yet to be established that the liquid was indeed sodium hydroxide and the can aluminium.

Entirely true. So far nobody has bothered to report what the liquid was, but given the account it's very likely sodium hydroxide or a similar caustic solution.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Can't wait to see how many people try to repeat this little incident. In fact, I kinda want to run the experiment, albeit well away from anybody who could get hurt. Reminds me of making volcanoes when I was a kid.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Of course, it has yet to be established that the liquid was indeed sodium hydroxide and the can aluminium.

Entirely true. So far nobody has bothered to report what the liquid was, but given the account it's very likely sodium hydroxide or a similar caustic solution.

I'm glad that a few people are not jumping to conclusions.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

OMG!!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Will this lead to a typical over-reaction of random body searches at train stations and banning liquids from trains?

Most likely not. Unlike Americans, the Japanese value their freedom and they don't turn tail and abandon thier values at the first sign of danger.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

MeanRingo:

" Can't wait to see how many people try to repeat this little incident. In fact, I kinda want to run the experiment, "

You mean the diet coke + mentos experiment that was so popular with kids this summer wasn´t good enough for you? Pretty much the same mechanics, only you get sprayed with coke and not with a caustic solution.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

If this were to happen in the United States, she would have been charged with transportation of hazardous materials on board public transportation. Wonder if she will be charged or required to pay a fine let alone hospital bills for the victims.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, they are showing on TV news now how to explode aluminium cans with alkalide, so we can look forward to a couple of copy cats. Maybe time to carry some lemon juice when taking a subway.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I don't think think that the average person would have any idea that a detergent (even if powerful) could explode by itself without heating it up or mixing it with other liquids or anything. I don't believe this woman should be charged with anything, other than perhaps the medical bills of the 13 others, which shouldn't be more than a few hundred dollars total.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Just glad it's not a bomb. No offense to the chemists amongst us but how about not mentioning what can be used to go bang? Too many weirdos online who want to be famous as it is, right? (Yeah, I know lots if stuff at home, the hardware store can be used for bad things but I don't see the point in giving people ideas)

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

All the people commenting here are talking about everything except why was she carrying a "powerful liquid detergent"??? Was she taking to another restaurant owned by the same owner as the one she already worked at or did she steal it to use privately at home or at another job. Was there a terrorist/wacko at her company that wanted to cause an explosion on the train line??

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

ReformedBasherOct. 21, 2012 - 12:34AM JST

Just glad it's not a bomb. No offense to the chemists amongst us but how about not mentioning what can be used to go bang? Too many weirdos online who want to be famous as it is, right?

It's actually the idiots who don't know what can explode that cause the most problems, as was likely the case here. If someone wanted to cause problems they would have already known about a simple, non-weaponizable reaction like this one, it's the people who aren't intending an explosion that cause a good amount of the total injuries in places like Japan.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Will this lead to a typical over-reaction of random body searches at train stations and banning liquids from trains?

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

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