Home>News Center>China

Toxic spill heads for Russia, China offers help
Updated: 2005-11-29 17:10

Thousands of children returned to school in China's Harbin city on Tuesday a week after a toxic spill prompted officials to turn off the water taps and now threatens supplies for more than a million Russians downstream.

An explosion at a chemical plant in the northeastern Chinese city of Jilin on November 13 poured 100 tonnes of cancer-causing benzene compounds into the Songhua river upstream of Harbin, a city of nine million people.

Officials cut off the water in Harbin before the 80-km (50-mile) slick arrived. It has since cleared the city but will arrive at a major city in Russia's far east within days.

Harbin, in Heilongjiang province, reopened its taps on Sunday after five days. True to his word, provincial governor Zhang Zuoji drank the first glass of tap water to prove it was safe.

The city's 400,000 primary and secondary school students returned to school on Tuesday after a week-long break with many bringing bottled water from home, state media said.

Many residents were sceptical that the warter is safe to drink.

"The water was red when it resumed. Now, it's yellow like the color of tea. It doesn't smell but it's not safe to drink yet," a 40-year-old resident named Zhou said.

Last weekend China apologised to Russia for the river water crisis. It has now agreed to provide monitoring equipment to its neighbor and help train Russian personnel as the toxic slick nears the Siberian border, the Chinese State Environmental Protection Administration said on its Web site.

Russia's environmental watchdog said on Monday the spill could reach the first Russian settlements in the next two to three days, while the Emergencies Ministry said it could start affecting the major Siberian city of Khabarovsk by December 10-12.

Russian television footage showed shops unloading bottled water supplies while scientists pushed aside lumps of ice to test the Amur river, which is fed by the Songhua -- Sungari in Russian. More than 1 million people could be affected.

Although officials say the slick should be less toxic by the time it crosses into Russia, chief state epidemiologist Gennady Onishchenko has noted that the dangerous compounds would have been diluted faster had the river been in full flow rather than half-frozen.

Benzene poisoning causes anemia, other blood disorders and kidney and liver damage.

In Bayan county in suburban Harbin, tests showed the level of nitro-benzene in the water at 0.1994 milligrams per liter, 10.73 times acceptable levels, the environment administration said.

Fire kills 5 in Northeast China
Aerobatics show in Hunan
Final rehearsal
  Today's Top News     Top China News

Australia, US, Japan praise China for Asia engagement



Banker: China doing its best on flexible yuan



Hopes high for oil pipeline deal



Possibilities of bird flu outbreaks reduced



Milosevic buried after emotional farewell



China considers trade contracts in India


  EU likely to impose tax on imports of Chinese shoes
  Bankers confident about future growth
  Curtain to be raised on Year of Russia
  Coal output set to reach record high of 2.5b tons
  WTO: China should reconsider currency plan
  China: Military buildup 'transparent'
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  Related Stories  
Water supply stoppage sparks panic buying
Harbin takes emergency measures to ease water shortage
Harbin cuts water supply for pollution fear
80-kilometer pollution slick reaches Harbin city
100 tons of chemicals flowed into river
Commentary: Cover-up can't hide murky water truth
Govt work group to probe into river pollution
China's premier visits waterless city
Manufacturers, Exporters, Wholesalers - Global trade starts here.