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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 November 2005, 07:46 GMT
Chinese city water supply 'safe'
A young boy fills a water container from a tanker truck in a street in Harbin a day before the mains supply was officially declared safe
Children have been urged to take bottled water to school
Water in the north-eastern Chinese city of Harbin has been declared safe to drink after a toxic chemical leak.

Running water was switched off to the city's 3.8m people for five days after 100 tonnes of benzene spilled into the Songhua river.

Despite reassurances by city officials, some residents said they were still too nervous to drink the water.

Communities further along the river are having to cut off their water supplies as the polluted slick moves downstream.

Russia has warned the spill is heading towards its Amur river, which feeds water to more than 500,000 residents of the Khabarovsk region. But officials say they expect pollution levels to be substantially lower than those in the Songhua.

The water supply in Harbin was switched back on on Sunday. For the previous five days, people had had to rely on bottled water and water delivered by lorries.

"Harbin's water is now safe to use and drink," said Xiu Tinggong of the city's health inspection bureau.

"Everybody can rest assured that the water is safe."

Schools return

But not everyone is convinced.

"We still can't be sure that it's safe," bank worker Sun Ning was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

"It's not that we don't trust the government but we are still not totally at ease."

And education chiefs have told schools to buy in "quality drinking water" or instruct the city's 400,000 school children to take bottled water from home when they go back to school on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, downstream in Yilan County, 30,000 people were to have their water supplies closed off four days.

The spillage was caused by an explosion on 13 November at a petrochemical plant upstream in Jilin.

Harbin's water supply was cut off eight days later.

Local government officials initially said it was for mains maintenance. Only after state media revealed the water could have been contaminated by the blast did the authorities admit very high levels of the highly poisonous toxin, which is also carcinogenic, had been found.

Beijing pledged to hold an inquiry, as government credibility came into question.

Russians prepare for toxic leak
27 Nov 05 |  Europe
China city water supply resumes
27 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
China apologises for river spill
26 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Beijing orders Harbin leak probe
26 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese media expose pollution row
26 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Evacuations follow China spillage
25 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Harbin toxic leak
24 Nov 05 |  In Pictures
China's murky waters
23 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific


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