Toxic Waste Clean Up Continues in Ivory Coast

ABDIJAN, Ivory Coast, Sept. 18 (UPI) — Waste removal workers say they expect cleaning up toxic waste around Abdijan, Ivory Coast, will take several weeks.

The toxic dumping rocked the administration of outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo, with the Cabinet resigning after the scandal broke several weeks ago.

Officials attributed seven deaths to the waste, although autopsies haven’t confirmed the cause, the Integrated Regional Information Networks news agency reported Friday.

“This is dangerous stuff,” said Henri Petitgand, a spokesman for the Seche Group, which sent the clean-up team to the African country. “People should not get near it without protective gear.”

The chemical waste arrived in the port city last month on a ship chartered by Netherlands commodities company Trafigura Beheer and apparently dumped in residential areas by a local contractor. A U.N. report indicated the substance contains potentially deadly hydrogen sulfide.

The en masse resignations haven’t changed the situation much because all ministers were reappointed to their posts, with the exceptions of the transport and environment leaders, observers told IRIN.

Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny said the transport minister was replaced because he was linked to permits “which are connected to this affair.” The environment minister was withdrawn by his party, the prime minister said.

Banny said it bribes likely were involved.

“I don’t think that these operations are done without money changing hands,” he told IRIN. “There is probably a corrupter and someone who has been corrupted somewhere.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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