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Friday, 10 March, 2000, 23:59 GMT
New toxic spill hits Eastern Europe

Poisonous chemicals spilt from a Romanian mine reservoir have sparked fears of more environmental damage - only six weeks after a cyanide leak caused an ecological disaster.

These mines and their waste-disposal reservoirs are ticking time bombs

Hungarian MP Zoltan Illes
Heavy rainfalls and melting snow broke the wall of a dam at a state-run mine near Baia Mare in nothern Romania, sending 20,000 tonnes of zinc and lead waste into the river Vaser.

The Vaser is a tributary of the river Tisza, which in turn flows into the Danube.

Last month's cyanide spill at a Romanian gold mine also flowed into the Tisza and thence into the Danube, devastating plant and animal life and affecting a number of riverside fishing villages.

The Romanian authorities have warned officials in neighbouring Ukraine and Hungary about the new spill, and have sent a team of experts to investigate the causes of the accident.

Romanian environment official Liliana Mara said however that most of the ore had settled at the base of the dam, and only a small quantity had entered the river system.

Hungary on alert

A Hungarian official said his government had been advised that cyanide had once again leaked into the river system, though Romanian officials denied this.

Dead birds in boat
The last spill caused widespread environmental damage
Hungary has ordered an environmental alert, and is testing the waters from the Tisza every two hours for signs of toxins.

Zoltan Illes, chairman of the Environment Protection Committee in the Hungarian parliament, described the Romanian mines and waste-disposal reservoirs as "ticking time-bombs".

He urged a return of United Nations and European Union experts who had studied the earlier cyanide spill.

That spill was described by Hungarian officials as the worst environmental disaster to afflict the region since the leak from Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear power station in 1986.

After removing hundreds of tonnes of dead fish from the water, the Hungarians said there was no life left in the river, and warned it could take 10 years for the ecosystem to recover.

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13 Feb 00 | Europe
Cyanide spill reaches Danube
14 Feb 00 | Media reports
Media concern at cyanide spill
11 Feb 00 | Media reports
Hungary's shock at cyanide disaster
10 Feb 00 | Europe
Cyanide spill wreaks havoc
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