Russia moves to calm fears over China toxic spill
Updated: 2005-11-27 09:40
KHABAROVSK, Russia (AFP) -
Russia authorities have moved to calm fears of a public health crisis as a toxic
benzene spill from China drifted down a river toward Russia, saying there would
be plenty of advance notice and plenty of fresh water on hand when the poison
China meanwhile extended its "deep apologies" to Russia for the
contamination, inviting Russian experts to carry out their own tests on the
spill still in Chinese territory and offering to help deal with the consequences
in Russia's Far East region, Russian news agencies reported Sunday.
President Vladimir Putin's envoy to the Far East, Kamil Iskhakov, told
regional media outlets that there was no reason for residents living along the
Amur river, known as the Heilong river in China, to panic.
"We will know at least a week before the chemical spill reaches Khabarovsk,"
a city of 650,000 people situated downstream from the spill, Iskhakov said.
"We already know how we will ensure a steady supply of water and it will be
distributed for free," he said, adding that local authorities throughout the
region would also make sure there was no price gouging by private grocery stores
in the region.
An extra 400,000 liters of bottled water was currently stocked in the
Khabarovsk region and in the coming three days an additional 1.4 million liters
were to be delivered, according to the a statement from the Khabarovsk regional
administration's food safety inspectorate.
Officials said predictions on the impact of the spill ranged widely, the most
pessimistic being that water with benzene levels up to seven times above norms
would reach water treatment plants and the most optimistic forecasting a much
more diluted concentration that would bypass the plants.
Russia's Rosgidromet meteorological and environmental service late Friday
said the concentration of benzene would be well below maximum acceptable levels
by the time the spill reached Khabarovsk and would pose virtually no threat to
human health, news agencies reported.
The 80-kilometer-long (50-mile-long) belt of toxic benzene, created after an
explosion at a chemical plant in China on November 13, was expected to flow
downstream Saturday and past northeast China's Harbin city, where public water
supplies were expected to resume on Sunday.
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing meanwhile met in Beijing with the
Russian ambassador and afterwards extended China's "deep apologies" for the
accident, Russian news agencies reported from Beijing.
"The Chinese side is prepared to show solidarity with Russia in liquidating
the effects of this environmental pollution," the reports quoted Li as saying.
The Chinese foreign ministry also gave its go-ahead for Russian experts to
visit the affected area in China to carry out their own analyses, they added.