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Chlorine Leak at Chemical Factory

NERATOVICE, Jul 24, 2000 -- (Radio Prague) Just before eight o'clock on Friday morning, chlorine at the chemical factory started leaking from a faulty pipe. Half an hour later siren rang out in two villages nearby to warn locals not to step outside and keep all their windows closed. By nine o'clock that day sirens warned another three villages, a third alert was announced for the whole area surrounding the factory and the first two firemen were rushed to a hospital.

The chlorine continued to leak until five in the afternoon, because as the spokesman of the Spolana chemical factory said, the leak was difficult to get to. Chlorine, a gas that irritates the mucous membranes, stays near the ground. Luckily the wind didn't blow the yellow-blue cloud onto the town of Neratovice, with a population of six thousand inhabitants, but into the countryside.

Although the concentration of chlorine measured in the affected villages was far below danger level, some newspapers reported that local villagers had difficulties breathing, and the unusually dry air could be felt even on the eastern outskirts of the capital. But this wasn't the first gas leak at the factory, the worst dating back to 1967. A dioxin leak at that time badly affected some 50 employees of the factory, causing many serious health problems.

A year later in 1968 production had to be stopped, and three buildings contaminated with the dangerous dioxin substance had to be isolated. What worries many environmental activists is the fact that only one of the three buildings have been decontaminated since then.

(C) 2000 Radio Prague.

-- (, July 25, 2000

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