Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai on Jan. 4 asked the Ministry of Science and Technology for a report on recently conducted petrol inspections.

A number of automobile and motorbike fires had occurred over the past few months, and one of the reasons for the fires was reported to have been substandard petrol, according to an official dispatch signed by Deputy PM Hai.

Deputy director of the Ministry of Science and Technology's Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality Tran Van Vinh said that the inspections had detected four petrol samples in HCM City that contained levels of methanol that exceeded industry standards.

Methanol cost only half the price of petrol and many petrol outlets combined the two in order to boost profits. However, methanol can erode the metal in vehicle engines and consequently was blamed for the recent fires, according to the website

One of the four petrol samples contained 4.3 percent of methanol whereas the regulated amount was 3 percent, said Vinh.
Vinh also said that the Mai Dich petrol station in Hanoi was closed at the end of last month after a petrol sample was found to contain 15.3 percent methanol.

On Jan. 4, the deputy chairman of the HCM City People's Committee, Le Manh Ha, handed out fines from 10-30 million VND (475-1,420 USD) to three petrol trading enterprises for substandard petrol.

A total of 42 automobile and motorbike fires broke out in Hanoi from December 1, 2010 to December 18, 2011, according to statistics from the city's Department of Fire Fighting and Prevention Police.

The domestic press also reported 89 cases of vehicle fires last year across the country, of which 50 automobile fires and 39 motorbike fires killed two people and injured two others.

The causes of 72 percent of the motorbike fires and 50 percent of the automobile fires are unknown./.