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Chemical spill leaves 52 ill in east China

Beijing (AFP) -- A chemical spill that dumped nearly seven tonnes of toxic waste in the seas off Fujian province in east China has left 52 people ill, local authorities said Thursday.

The incident happened in the early hours of Sunday when a tube connecting a transport vessel to the wharf broke, spilling 6.9 tonnes of C9 aromatics into the sea.

A product of refining crude oil, C9 is typically used to produce adhesives, printing ink and paint, and is toxic to humans.

While the local environment bureau said the waters had been cleaned up by Monday afternoon, a strong smell lingers and local fisherman have complained of dying fishes.

Those affected live near the coast and had come into contact with C9, reporting a variety of symptoms ranging from dizziness, nausea, vomiting and breathing difficulties, the Quangang district government said in a statement.

Ten people are still in hospital for treatment, including one who contracted pneumonia after falling into the affected waters, the government said.

The local environment bureau said that while the waters have been cleaned up, it has brought in experts to test the water and seafood.

But many have taken to social media to criticise the local government, whom they accuse of attempting a cover-up and playing down the severity of the incident.

Posts of the incident on the Twitter-like Weibo had been rapidly taken down by censors earlier in the week, while the terms "Quangang carbon leak" could not be searched.

"Dozens have gone to the hospital for treatment while hundreds more have shown symptoms of discomfort. Yet the government doesn't care about them but rather, is busy suppressing search terms and making up fake air quality reports," one user wrote.

"Perhaps they should buy some masks for the villagers cleaning up the toxic waste!"

 

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