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Sichuan Gas Leak Puts 200 in Hospital
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Two factories in Sichuan were immediately closed down after 200 pupils at a nearby school fell sick from an unidentified gas leak on Thursday morning, said a local government spokesman.




The two factories, an electrolytic zinc plant and a lead and zinc washery, lie upstream from a river which flows through Xingjing County of Sichuan Province. However, the river is not used as a water source for local residents and no chemical plants are in the school's vicinity.


An initial investigation from the local health department pointed the finger at the lead and zinc washery, saying the students could have been poisoned by gas discharged from there.


Students at a primary school in the town of Xinmiao, Xingjing County, complained of a smell of bad eggs and of feeling a burning sensation shortly before classes began. Their conditions worsened with many suffering from headaches, vomiting and chest pains.


The investigators attributed the smell to a mixture of carbon monoxide and sulfurated hydrogen, both of which could have been discharged from the washery, according to the investigators.


The county's two hospitals received 200 students, with twenty-one being diagnosed with symptoms consistent with poisoning and 110 being kept under observation. The others have all been discharged.


"The children are now in a stable condition, but they will stay in hospital for further treatment and observation," said Shi Jun, head of the hospital.


A similar incident occurred on April 16, when a chemical plant in Xifeng County, Guizhou Province, discharged sulfur dioxide into the air. The gas put 450 people in hospital, including five teachers and 135 children from two primary schools and a middle school.


Investigators later discovered that the culprit was a nearby plant which had suffered a malfunction in one of its major sulfur dioxide treatment devices.


(Xinhua News Agency June 22, 2007)

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