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Sunday, October 24, 1999 Published at 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK

World: Africa

Kenyan 'radioactive road' scare

Radioactive ores occur naturally in the Mrima region

Health officials in Kenya say thousands of people have to be examined after a radioactive substance was used for road repairs, the Sunday Nation newspaper has reported.

Part of the 21-km (13-mile) dirt road in the Kwale district, near Mombasa, has been shown to contain a harmful dosage of the compound Thorium 232.

All who took part in the repair of the road, and an estimated 25,000 people living nearby have to have checkups, Kenya's Health Permanent Secretary, Professor Julius Meme, told the newspaper.

He said that after consultations with experts the government had decided to take "speedy action".

Measures will include the removal of 2,975 tonnes of material used to repair the road, and the declaration of the source of the radioactive ore as a "protected area".

People living in the vicinity of the excavation site, known as Mrima Hill, will also be made aware of the hazards.

The road repairs were made six months ago by employees of the Ministry of Public Works from Kwale, and staff of the road contractors Irosan Mombasa.

The Sunday Nation said that life has continued as normal in the location of the road, known as Pongwe-Kidimu.

"Residents (have been) going about their activities without any sign of apprehension," the newspaper said.

Sunday Nation reporters who investigated the story were subjected to scanning for three weeks.

The newspaper said animals may have been harmed as well as people.

The Ministry of Health's action follows a Radiation Protection Board meeting in Nairobi two weeks ago.

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