Protests over 'toxic slops' dumping in Ivory Coast turn violent
PROTESTERS in Ivory Coast attacked a minister and burned down the home of the director of the port at Abidjan yesterday as public anger erupted over the dumping of deadly toxic waste in the lagoon-side city.
The enraged mob carried out the attacks in Abidjan's Riviera II residential district, as the number of deaths caused by the poisonous black sludge deposited around the city rose to seven, four of them children.
About 30,000 people have sought treatment at hospitals for vomiting, stomach pains, nausea, breathing difficulties, nosebleeds and migraines, health officials said.
Authorities announced a clean-up operation would begin tomorrow.
The UN children's agency UNICEF noted that some dump sites have not been fully secured, and children were still going into them to play.
Public outcry over the waste scandal, which has rocked the economic capital of the world's top cocoa grower, forced the resignation of the government of the war-divided West African state last week. Residents have accused the authorities of being slow to act and of not providing enough information.
The scandal has triggered an international investigation into the origin of the toxic slops, which were unloaded at Abidjan last month by a Panamanian ship chartered by a leading world commodity trader, the Holland-based Trafigura Beheer BV.
In yesterday's attacks, the crowd dragged Innocent Kobenan Anaky, the transport minister, from his car and beat him up. "The protesters burned his car. He is seriously injured," said Joel N'Guessan, the vice-president of Mr Anaky's MFA party.
The mob also broke into the Riviera II home of Marcel Gossio, the director of Abidjan's port.
He has been suspended from his post as part of the investigation into how the waste was unloaded and dumped, an assistant, who asked not to be named, said.
"They took everything and burned it down," the assistant said.
No injuries were reported in the incident.
The surprise resignation of the cabinet of the prime minister, Charles Konan Banny, injected more uncertainty into an already tangled political outlook for Ivory Coast, which has been split in two since a brief 2002-3 civil war.
Other parts of the city were calm, but fears of the effects of the noxious waste's fumes were still running high.
Riviera II residents complained of smelling a foul, stinging odour. "It's like garlic," said one woman, removing her paper face-mask to speak.
Mr Banny said late on Thursday that a French company, Tredi International, would begin to remove the waste from tomorrow and the government was working to have it sent abroad.
He said it was "not necessary" to reveal its chemical composition.
But foreign experts brought in to test the viscous substance said it appeared to contain hydrogen sulphide, which can be deadly in high concentrations.
The authorities have arrested seven Ivorians and one Nigerian in connection with the dumping of the waste in open-air sites around the city.
Trafigura Beheer has said it chartered the ship that unloaded the waste. It described the substance unloaded as slops, a "mixture of gasoline, water and caustic washings".
The company said it advised the Ivorian authorities that the slops needed to be disposed of correctly.
Mr Banny said tap water remained safe to drink. But fishing had been banned in the Abidjan lagoon and livestock near the sites where the black sludge was dumped were being observed.
The produce of market gardens near the sites would be destroyed and compensation paid, Banny said.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
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