October 10, 2008

South China Water Poisoning Toll Rises to 200 Sick

South China water poisoning toll rises to 200 sick

NANNING, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- The number of people made ill after drinking contaminated water in south China has risen to 200 from Tuesday's 136, as medical tests found more people with arsenic poisoning.

Nineteen people were kept in hospital for observation while the others received outpatient treatment, a spokesperson of the Hechi city government, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, said on Thursday.

All those affected were described as stable and recovering.

More than 20 medical experts have been sent by the regional government to Hechi to help treat the sick.

Residents of two villages in Hechi began to show symptoms of swelling around the face and eyes, vomiting and blurred vision on Friday.

Urine tests found excessive amounts of arsenic, said Ge Xianmin, head of Guangxi regional occupational disease prevention and control institute.

"The villagers were slightly poisoned. They can be cured in nine to 15 days with timely treatment," Ge said.

The local government has sought urine tests for all the villages' 640 residents. The final results have yet to be published.

Environmental monitoring measures indicated the villages' water source was polluted by industrial waste from a nearby metallurgy enterprise, which has been closed after the contamination.

The city authorities said Typhoon Hagupit triggered torrential rain on Sept. 25. Waste water containing arsenic overflowed from the firm and polluted nearby ponds and wells.

The ponds and wells have been sealed off. The Hechi Municipal Government is trucking clean water into the villages in fire tenders.

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