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Saturday, 25 April, 1998, 22:14 GMT 23:14 UK
Toxic waste spill threatens Spanish national park
Toxic liquid creeps toward a grove of olive trees in Europe's largest nature reserve
Toxic liquid creeps toward a grove of olive trees in Europe's largest nature reserve
The authorities in southern Spain are racing against time to build dams around Europe's largest national park, to try to stop a stream of poisonous waste destroying rare plants and wildlife.

The authorities say the waste from a minerals plant has already caused an ecological disaster, with thousands of hectares of farmland poisoned.

The Canadian company which owns the plant near the Dońana national park said a dyke in a reservoir suddenly burst, sending a stream of water contaminated by zinc, lead and cadmium, into the Guadiamar river system.

Thousands of hectares of farmland have been poisoned
Thousands of hectares of farmland have been poisoned
The country's Environment Minister, who visited the sight within hours of the massive spill, says there is no risk to human life.

The main bulk of the contamination is still a few kilometres from the park itself and temporary dams have been built to try to stem the flow of what has been called a stream of poison.

A lot of agricultural land has been affected and crops will be lost, but by far the biggest outcry has come from environmental groups like Greenpeace, who are concerned about the welfare of Europe's largest natural reserve where hundreds of species of flora and fauna flourish as nowhere else on the continent.

They have described the accident as a crime against nature and want the Spanish Attorney General to take legal action against the foreign group that owns the mining company where the accident took place.

A Dońana park spokesman identified the company operating the reservoir as Seville-based Minas de Aznalcollar.

Environmental groups say they had warned before about a disaster waiting to happen, but were ignored.

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