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Starbucks Closures, Arrests, Confusion: Hanoi's Water Crisis Deepens

Hanoi's ongoing water crisis took several dramatic turns over the last few days.

According to VnExpress, nearly one million people across 10 districts have received oil-contaminated water from Viwasupco. The incident began well over a week ago, when residents across southwestern Hanoi noticed strange smells coming from their tap water.

Meanwhile, late last week, Bui Dang Khoa, the company's CEO, declined to take any responsibility for Viwasupco's role in the crisis. The same news source reports that Khoa said at a Thursday press conference that the firm is "the biggest victim in this case and the company hope the police will soon find the true culprit."

Nguyen Khac Long, head of the environment department of Hoa Binh Province, where the contaminated water was sourced from, disagreed, saying that Viwasupco is responsible for ensuring the quality of its water before supplying it to customers.

On the same day, two suspects involved in dumping oil into a creek in Hoa Binh were arrested. According to VnExpress, they told police that a third man, Ly Dinh Vu, had hired them to drive from Bac Ninh Province to a ceramic factory in Phu Tho Province and collect waste oil from the facility. On Sunday, Vu turned himself in to police after going into hiding in several northern locations.

Also over the weekend, Starbucks temporarily closed seven of its outlets in southwestern Hanoi in order to avoid using contaminated water, with no re-opening date set yet.

It remains unclear when tap water in impacted districts will be completely safe to use again, while a Twitter thread from environmental engineer Andrew Whelton explains that the problem may be even worse than initially thought, could take months to remedy, and flushing water may even contaminate the air in resident's homes.