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The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"The virus could have been spreading unnoticed in Britain for up to a month"
 real 56k

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"It may not be hi-tech but the organisers hope it will be effective"
 real 56k

Prime Minister Tony Blair
"The only thing you can do is to take the toughest possible action straight away"
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Ian Johnson, National Farmers Union
"Its a nightmare situation"
 real 28k

Sunday, 25 February, 2001, 22:13 GMT
Devon outbreak 'nightmare scenario'
Police at the farm in north Devon where a new case of foot-and-mouth was confirmed
The farm at Highampton has been sealed off
Farmers' leaders have described the seventh confirmed outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease as "the worst-case scenario" and fear it could have spread much further afield.

The new case was discovered at a large sheep and cattle farm in Highampton, north Devon, more than 400 miles from the suspected source of the disease in the North East of England.

A mechanical digger is silhouetted by the flames
The carcasses of 800 pigs are being burnt at Heddon
On Sunday evening huge pyres were lit at the farm in Northumberland to burn the carcasses of more than 800 pigs slaughtered in an effort to contain the disease.

The pigs at Burnside Farm, Heddon-on-the-Wall, had been doused in oil and diesel and placed on railway sleepers, straw and coal ready to be ignited.

Culls have also been taking place at five other farms in Northumberland and Essex where the disease was confirmed and at a further two "contact" sites.

Click here to see map of confirmed cases.

Earlier, a 10-mile exclusion zone was set up around Burdon Farm in Highampton, north Devon.

The farm has 600 cattle and 1,500 sheep and the farmer runs 13 premises, 11 in Devon and two in Cornwall, all of which will be inspected.

This isn't an ordinary farm, it is a cattle and sheep dealer, someone who has dealings with scores of other farms

Anthony Gibson
Vehicles from the farm have travelled widely throughout Britain, particularly in Cumbria, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (Maff) officials said.

The disease was only confirmed among the farm's 600-strong cattle herd and vets are examining the 1,500 sheep for signs of infection.

Investigators are also carrying out tests on another suspected outbreak at a nearby farm.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said the new outbreak was "very serious".

'Spread far and wide'

Anthony Gibson, from the south-west branch of the National Farmers Union (NFU), told the BBC the implications of the outbreak were disastrous for farmers.

Richmond Park
Richmond Park in London will close to protect deer
"If you were to write the worst-case scenario for foot-and-mouth disease, this would be it.

"This isn't an ordinary farm, it is a cattle and sheep dealer, someone who has dealings with scores of other farms.

"There is a connection we believe with the outbreak in Northumberland ... and it could spread far and wide throughout this region."

He was concerned that the disease could have been spread to Europe when sheep were exported from the farm.

Farmer 'shocked'

The farmer, Willy Cleave, said he was shocked to discover signs of illness in his herd.

"We buy a lot of sheep and deal in a lot, and we were unlucky. Some must have been contaminated with foot-and-mouth.

Activities curbed
Monday's race meeting at Newcastle is cancelled
Camping and Caravaning Club cancels meets
RSPB reserves closed
Fox and deer hunting and hare coursing banned
Whipsnade Wild Animal Park and Woburn Safari Park closed
City farms shut
Visitors to London Zoo are being asked to walk across disinfected matting
Richmond Park, Bushy Park and Hampton Court Home Park closed from midnight on Sunday
"We don't know what is going to happen but it is going to be bad. It has been a big shock."

NFU president Ben Gill will meet the agriculture minister on Monday to discuss the spread of the virus.

Mr Gill said that while he very much supported the ban on movement of livestock, he would be talking to Mr Brown about the problems being experienced on farms.

"Farmers are already facing substantial losses as a result of this outbreak and we must ensure that the current measures do not unjustifiably cause even more losses," he said.

The government has imposed a seven-day ban on the transport of livestock throughout the country.

Royal parks shut

The outbreaks have forced scores of organisations to cancel meetings and sporting events for fear of spreading the disease.

Hunting has been suspended, several zoos closed their doors and three Royal parks in London - Richmond Park, Bushy Park and Hampton Court Park - are shutting to the general public at midnight on Sunday to protect deer herds.

Maff officials are now working to identify the origin of the outbreak before Northumberland.

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24 Feb 01 | Europe
Europe in fear of UK farm virus
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