Deadly sewage blights Ukraine

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The Independent Online

Ukrainian authorities are grappling with one of their worst health and ecological disasters in decades since the rivers supplying water to Kharkov, the country's second biggest city, were contaminated by a gigantic sewage spill. he head of Kharkov's regional administration, Alexander Maselsky, yesterday advised the 1.5 million people in the city to leave temporarily until the water purification system was repaired.

he spill coincides with an outbreak of cholera which has killed three people and infected 220 others since 5 June. Cholera, an infection that causes drastic dehydration, is spread by contaminated water.

At least 600,000 cubic metres of untreated sewage has poured into the Lopan, Uda and Seversky Donets rivers since heavy rains disabled the main sewage pumping station in Kharkov in late June. Residents have been receiving chlorinated water in their homes for two to three hours a day since the spill, with additional supplies available from 300 tankers bringing water from uncontaminated areas.

he accident has shattered normal life in Kharkov. Most factories have shut down, the authorities have drawn up plans to evacuate all but the most seriously ill patients from hospitals, and bathing and fishing have been banned. "he situation is still tough. his must not be underestimated. We must also not make matters worse," Mr Maselsky told reporters.

he cholera crisis recently caused Ukrainian authorities to close beaches for two weeks in Odessa and the Crimean peninsula, the country's main Black Sea resorts. he health ministry said that two-thirds of the cholera victims had contracted it after bathing or eating fish in affected areas.

In the eastern region of Donetsk, bordering Russia, hospitals are preparing facilities for 5,500 potential cholera patients and large reserves of medicines have been built up.Ukraine's sewage and health problems have caused concern in southern Russia, where cholera broke out last summer in the Dagestan area.