From: Associated Press
Published September 12, 2006 12:00 AM

U.N. Sending Expert Team to Help Ivory Coast with Waste Cleanup

GENEVA — The United Nations on Monday sent a team of three disaster management experts to Ivory Coast to help rid the country of toxic waste dumped in the city of Abidjan and blamed for the death of at least three children in recent weeks.

The experts will help coordinate the country's cleanup campaign and provide people with information on the toxic waste that was disposed of by Dutch commodities trading company Trafigura Beheer from a gasoline tanker, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement.

The agency said many of the sites where dumping occurred have yet to be secured.

"Most of them don't have signaling or warning, even less have fences sealing off a security zone," it said.

Ivory Coast's entire 32-member Cabinet resigned last week amid growing public anger over the affair. Abidjan residents had complained of a smell of rotten eggs and hundreds eventually took to the streets to demand that the government clean up the waste.

Among the chemicals in the residue was hydrogen sulfide, which in concentrated doses can kill humans, according to an Ivorian government health report. Local media have reported four deaths from intoxication and say more than 5,000 people were exposed to the fumes.

U.N. bodies have provided some US$50,000 (euro40,000) in medicine to help hospitals dealing with complaints ranging from eye irritation to nausea, the agency said. It said a separate team of experts sent by France is already providing assistance.

The U.N. humanitarian office said officials overseeing an international accord on trade in potentially hazardous waste would assess the legal consequences of how the waste was disposed.

According to the Basel Convention, exporting toxic material requires written authorization from the country where it is being sent for disposal.

"If the substances were shipped illegally, the exporting party is obliged to take them back and pay compensation for the pollution," the agency said.

Trafigura Beheer said last week there was "carelessness" in the handling of the waste, which it said had been handed over to a local company. Trafigura Beheer said it had acted lawfully and that the Ivorian company "Tommy" was certified to process the waste.

Source: Associated Press

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