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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 17:48 GMT 18:48 UK
Ivory Coast 'toxic ship' inquiry
Probo Koala is blocked in the port of Paldiski by environmental group Greenpeace 's ship (not pictured) 26 September 2006
The ship was blocked in Estonia on Tuesday by an environmental group
Estonia has launched a criminal inquiry into the ship at the centre of an environmental scandal in Ivory Coast, after finding toxic waste on board.

The Panamanian-registered tanker, Probo Koala, has been impounded at the Estonian port of Paldiski.

Eight people died and more than 77,700 sought medical treatment as a result of the waste shipped to Abidjan last month, Ivorian officials have said.

The Dutch charter company, Trafigura Beheer BV, denies its cargo was toxic.

Estonia's state prosecutor's office opened the criminal investigation, saying the ship's crew was suspected of trying to dump waste water into the Paldiski port without permission.

Test results of samples taken from the ship showed traces of "environmentally dangerous, poisonous chemicals", the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

"Probo Koala will remain at the Paldiski port as long as the proceedings require," it said.

Independent inquiry

In Ivory Coast, a judge heading the commission investigating the chemical waste discharge requested that Estonia detain the vessel.

People suffering from reactions to the recent dumping of toxic waste in Abobo hospital, outside Abidjan
Thousands of people have been treated for vomiting and migraines
The environmental campaign group, Greenpeace, which blocked the Probo Koala with one of its own ships on Tuesday, had also called for the ship be held.

The Dutch company that chartered the ship, Trafigura Beheer BV, has said it will launch an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the waste.

It has promised to co-operate with all the agencies involved to get to the bottom of what has taken place.

The Probo Koala discharged 500 tonnes of waste on 19 August in Abidjan, the west African nation's largest city, badly polluting the surrounding area.

The government's slow reaction to the crisis so enraged Ivorians that the Cabinet was forced to resign and the government reshuffled.

Three former senior officials were dismissed or suspended on Monday at a parliamentary hearing into the incident.

The country has begun the process of making safe 11 sites contaminated by the waste.


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