PAULINE BAX, ASSOCIATED PRESS, SEPTEMBER 26, 2006
The Probo Koala, blockaded by Greenpeace
NEW YORK — Authorities in Ivory Coast asked Estonia to hold a tanker that left hundreds of tons of toxic waste in the West African nation’s main city, as another death was attributed to the foul-smelling substance on Tuesday.
A judge heading the commission investigating the chemical waste scandal sent a written request to Estonia to detain the ship and “put it at our disposal for the investigation,” a justice ministry official said.
Activists from the environmental group Greenpeace prevented the oil tanker Probo Koala from leaving the port of Paldiski, Estonia, on Monday, demanding that authorities impound the ship.
The health ministry said an eighth victim died because of the waste, which was shipped to the commercial capital of Abidjan last month by a Netherlands-based commodities trader and dumped in ditches, alongside roads, and on the main garbage dump by a local contractor.
Hospitals in Abidjan have provided free consultations to 80,000 people, many of them complaining of nausea, headaches and breathing difficulties caused by the fumes. The number of people seeking treatment has started to level off, a health ministry official said.
U.N. experts said last week the waste contained a chemical called hydrogen sulfide, which gives off a pungent smell of rotten eggs and in high doses can kill.
The Dutch company, Trafigura Beheer BV, says the ship’s cargo consisted of regular “washings” with little or no toxicity.
Trafigura’s director Claude Dauphin and another executive were jailed in Ivory Coast last week and charged with poisoning and breaking toxic waste laws, after they went to the country to distribute medicines and assist authorities with an investigation.
A number of local officials have also been arrested, along with the Nigerian owner of the contracting company that dumped the waste.
A clean-up operation led by a French waste removal company went into its second week as the smell dissipated at most sites around the city.