Toxic waste poisons 9,000 Ivorians

Six people are now dead and nearly 9,000 have been poisoned by fumes from toxic waste that was dumped at open-air sites in Abidjan, the Ivorian health minister says.

    Toxic waste was dumped at open-air sites around Abidjan

    Thirty-six health centres, four of them staffed by military medical personnel, as well as two mobile units are treating victims of the poisoning, the president's office said.

    About 538 tonnes of toxic liquid waste from a Panamanian-registered ship was dumped at about 10 sites around Abidjan, Ivory Coast's commercial capital.

    Jean Denoman, the deputy director of health, said on state television on Monday: "We have as of today a total of 8,887 people that have come for consultation at health centres."

    Fumes from the waste - which includes hydrogen sulphide and organochloride - have caused nausea, rashes, diarrhoea and headaches. Greenpeace, the environmental pressure group, said the sludge was mainly oil-refining waste.

    Toxic fumes

    Six French waste disposal experts arrived in the Ivory Coast on Friday to help neutralise the toxic fumes.

    President Laurent Ggabgo's office on Monday announced plans to build a bunker to hold tonnes of dangerous waste in an attempt to "contribute to the resolution" of the crisis, but did not say when construction would begin.

    Maca prison has been evacuated after the death of one of at least 120 inmates, a source at facility told the AFP news agency.

    The state prosecutor said that seven people, including the heads of three companies - Puma Energie, Waibs and Tommy - which operate at the port in Abidjan, had been arrested. The suspects could face charges of endangering public health that carry prison sentences of between 15 and 20 years.

    Chartered vessel

    The Greek company that owns the vessel, Prime Marine Management, said that the waste had been removed lawfully. The Probo Koala had been chartered by a Netherlands-based company which said an Ivorian firm had been entrusted with handling the unloaded waste.

    Ivory Coast's entire cabinet resigned on Wednesday over the poisoning scandal, which has triggered street protests by residents.
      
    Charles Konan Banny, the prime minister, who has been asked to form a new government, has accused his administration of "negligence" and promised to punish those responsible.

    SOURCE: AFP


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