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Last Updated: Friday, 25 November 2005, 11:37 GMT
Pollution fear grips Russian city
Amur River at Khabarovsk
Ice has formed in the Amur River at Khabarovsk
The mayor of Khabarovsk in Russia's far east has urged the city's residents not to be alarmed about the water supply as a toxic spill heads their way.

"I'm appealing for the panic to stop," Aleksandr Sokolov said on local TV, after residents emptied the shops of bottled water.

An 80km (50-mile) stretch of water contaminated with benzene is flowing towards Russia from China.

Russian officials say the pollution may reach Khabarovsk around 1 December.

The authorities there say they have 70 water tankers ready to supply the city's residents with water if the mains system has to be shut down.

"I urge people not to try and profit from the situation and not to whip up anxiety," the mayor said.

Benzene can be lethal to humans, even in small doses. The Russian emergencies ministry estimates that the maximum period of heightened toxicity in the Amur river will be two weeks.

The toxic water will arrive first in Leninskoye, in the Jewish Autonomous Region, on 27-28 November, the ministry predicts.
HARBIN TIMELINE
13 November Explosion at petrochemical plant, Jilin city
21 Nov Water to Harbin city cut off; local government cites mains maintenance
22 Nov State media say water could have been contaminated after the blast
23 Nov Authorities admit very high levels of benzene have been found in the water

Earlier, a senior Russian official told the BBC that the mains supply of drinking water in Khabarovsk - taken from the Amur - would be cut off for several days.

A communications hotline has been set up between Chinese and Russian experts to monitor the benzene spill.

Khabarovsk is home to about 650,000 people and the authorities fear 1.5 million people in and around the city will be affected by the pollution.

Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of the Russian environmental monitoring agency Rosprirodnadzor, told the BBC that in Khabarovsk "the water supply will be shut off, because the purifying equipment cannot deal with benzene".

He said heating would not be affected but tap water would be cut for a few days and fish from the Amur would also be contaminated.


SEE ALSO:
Chinese toxic leak was 100 tons
25 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Pollutant 'damages bone marrow'
03 Dec 04 |  Health
Harbin residents wait and worry
23 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Harbin: Truth emerges after secrecy
23 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
China's murky waters
23 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific


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