Page last updated at 17:01 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Ivory Coast waste 'victims' receive Trafigura payout

Two civil protection workers pass by a bulldozer clearing a site polluted with toxic waste at the Akouedo district in Abidjan
The case concerns chemical waste dumped in 2006

People from Ivory Coast who said they had been made ill by dumped waste have begun to receive compensation cheques, after a four-year legal battle.

Hundreds of Ivorians - many of them without bank accounts - queued for hours to receive their cheques.

Some 30,000 people are in line for a share of a $45m (£30m) payout from the multi-national oil company Trafigura.

The firm has always denied that the waste was dangerous, or that it knew the chemicals would be dumped.

Trafigura hired a local firm in 2006 to treat and dispose of its waste - but the chemicals were eventually dumped in the main city, Abidjan.

Shortly after, thousands of people complained of becoming ill, and the illnesses were eventually linked to the chemical waste.

But reports that the waste had caused deaths or serious injuries were always rejected by Trafigura - and lawyers for the claimants eventually agreed.

The two parties agreed in court that, at worst, the waste had caused flu-like symptoms.

'We're suffering'

Local activist Claude Gouhourou, who is in charge of giving out the compensation cheques, said it could take three weeks to finish the process.

A schedule for cashing the cheques has also been drawn up, so that local banks are not overwhelmed with demands for cash.

In sweltering heat, hundreds of people crowded the barriers set up around Mr Gouhourou's office, held back by armed security guards.

One of the claimants, Fatoumata Ouattara, told the Associated Press she was sick of waiting for the compensation.

"It's already been four years. We're tired, we're suffering. We just want our money."

The Trafigura payout is in addition to nearly $200m that the company paid the Ivorian government in 2007.

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