A medical expert said on Friday afternoon that more victims who had been exposed to mustard gas left behind by Japanese troops at the end of World War II might yet show up, but that victims would not infect other people.
Speaking at a press briefing, Qin Ke, deputy director of the Qiqihar city health bureau said the 41 people hospitalized had been directly exposed to the mustard gas or had been in contact with the earth polluted by the toxic agent.
The toxic mustard gas was leaked from drums of chemicals left behind by Japanese troops at the end of World War II near the city of Qiqihar, in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.
As the period from direct contact with the nerve gas to illness can range from several hours to one month, more victims might emerge in the future, acknowledged doctors at the No 203 Hospital of the People's Liberation Army, where the victims are being treated.
The chemicals, discovered early last week at a construction site, were stored in five metal drums, one of which was accidentally broken, releasing an oil-like substance into the soil.
Unaware of the nature of the material, two workers later bought the five drums, cut them up, and then sold the scrap to a waste treatment depot in a residential area.
The situation deteriorated when the polluted soil from the construction site was removed to several different places.
Technical experts and the relevant Japanese personnel later confirmed the five drums contained mustard gas left by the Japanese intruders at the close of World War II.
(Xinhua News Agency August 15, 2003)