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Cancer Deaths Haunt Village

More than 40 people have died of cancer in barely 10 years in a small village in southern Guangdong Province.

The cause of the shockingly high death rate was still unknown, the Southern Metropolitan News reported Wednesday.

Longdou Village, 60 kilometers south of Leizhou City, has a population of 800. According to the report, the villagers had enjoyed average health for hundreds of years until the early 1990s.

During the past 10 years, the village came under a shadow of unexplained illness and death. People frequently fell ill, and most looked pale and haggard. A woman seldom weighed more than 55 kilograms and a man seldom more than 60kg.

The situation was particularly serious for the elderly, whose life expectancy was shockingly short in a well-to-do area. There were less than 20 people aged above 60.

More than 60 people died of serious diseases in the past 10 years, and more than 40 died of cancer.

One of the victims, Chen Dang, died of liver caner at the age of 30 in 2001. A few months later, his parents both died of the same disease, leaving his 8-year-old daughter alone.

An investigation showed that the drinking water piped from four wells failed to meet national standards, and could be a possible cause of the sicknesses.

However, some experts doubted the theory because the water has been used for generations.

The report said the well water had an unusually high iron content and had a bitter taste. Villagers using the water to cook rice said the cooked rice would turn sour only two hours later.

Chen Zhi, a local farmer, said he piped water to irrigate his 0.26-hectare rice seedling bed, but had an output of merely 200 kilograms. Livestock drinking the water also grew slowly, he said.

Authorities had renewed investigations in June but the cause was still unknown, the report said.

(Shenzhen Daily September 1, 2004)

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