[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 11 August, 2003, 08:20 GMT 09:20 UK
China angry over 'WWII gas' spill
Victim of chemical weapon accident in Qiqihar, China
Two of the injured are said to be "close to death"
An accident in China involving chemical weapons allegedly left behind by Japanese troops in World War II has left at least 36 people ill.

Metal drums containing what is thought to be mustard gas were found on a construction site in the city of Qiqihar in Heilongjiang province.

Most of the injured are construction workers and people who came into contact with the drums after they had been unwittingly opened.

China has protested to Japan about the incident, which cast a shadow over weekend events to mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of a peace treaty between the two countries to conclude WWII.

China's official media said 34 of the injured were in hospital, with two "close to death".

Chinese victims and their families were reported to have called for compensation from Japan.

A senior Japanese government official, Yasuo Fukuda, said Japanese experts were in Qiqihar to investigate.

"If it turns out that this incident came from the former Japanese army, then I think it is necessary that we handle the case accordingly," Mr Fukuda said.

The accident occurred last week when construction workers found five metal barrels. One was opened, causing an oil-like substance to spill into the soil, according to the official China Daily.

Workers later cut the barrels into pieces and sold them to a recycling facility. Polluted soil from the building site was then moved to other locations as part of the construction work, the paper said.

Japan's war-time record in China is a regular source of tension between the two governments, and popular Chinese anger.

Large quantities of chemical weapons were left behind by the retreating Japanese army, some of them buried or concealed.

Several cases have already been lodged by Chinese plaintiffs against the Japanese government, alleging damage or injury because of the weapons.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say up to 2,000 people have died since the war after coming into contact with the weapons.

Japan germ programme in dock
31 Jul 02  |  Asia-Pacific
Japanese cabinet donates to WWII fund
02 Jul 02  |  Asia-Pacific
Row revives memories of bitter past
09 Jul 01  |  Asia-Pacific
Japan overturns sex slave ruling
29 Mar 01  |  Asia-Pacific
Sex slaves put Japan on trial
08 Dec 00  |  Asia-Pacific
Japan 'covered up' germ warfare
06 Feb 01  |  Asia-Pacific
Unit 731: Japan's biological force
01 Feb 02  |  Correspondent

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific