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Wednesday, 15 March, 2000, 18:00 GMT
Third pollution spill hits Hungary

A new pollution spill from Romania has entered the River Tisza in Hungary - the third such spill in six weeks.

Water management officials said the spill, believed to contain heavy metals, had dyed the river black for at least 20 kilometres.

The news came as Hungarian, Romanian and Ukrainian officials began talks in Debrecen in eastern Hungary to discuss the pollution of the region.

Serious situation

Hungary had been warned about the spill by Ukraine, through which the Tisza passes before entering Hungarian territory.

Hungarian radio quoted catastrophe prevention official Sandor Istenes as saying it was caused by the breach of a reservoir dyke at mining works in Baia Borsa, northern Romania.

fish killed by cyanide
A previous spill killed tonnes of fish
The same mining works were responsible for a spill into the river last week of 20,000 cubic metres of sludge containing zinc, lead and copper.

Hungary has asked Romania to identify and, if necessary, close industrial plants that pose a serious danger to the environment.

It has also asked the European Union to help identify hazardous sites in Romania and either help improve them or close them down.

Deputy State Secretary Gabor Bagi summoned the Romanian Ambassador Petru Cordos on Tuesday to warn him the situation was "extraordinary and serious".

Emergency measures

The Hungarian authorities have reimplemented the emergency measures put into practice after the previous spills.

These include banning the use of river water for any purpose, including irrigation.

They have also sealed off side tributaries of the Tisza and the Tisza Lake, in an effort to protect them from pollution.

In January, a spill of sludge laced with cyanide from another mine in Romania entered the river, killing some 200 tons of fish.

The spills have been described as the most serious environmental disaster to hit eastern Europe since the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant nearly 15 years ago.

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See also:

10 Feb 00 | Europe
Cyanide spill wreaks havoc
11 Feb 00 | Media reports
Hungary's shock at cyanide disaster
14 Feb 00 | Europe
Death of a river
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