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Fatal Gas Rendered 'Harmless'

Six Japanese experts rendered five containers with fatal nerve gas harmless after sealing them with lead and plastic wrappers on Saturday.

The experts were dispatched by the Japanese government after the nerve gas leaked from one container, poisoning dozens of residents in the city of Qiqihar in Heilongjiang Province.

The containers, which contain mustard gas, will not leak and be harmful after the handling, sources said.

Meanwhile, a Japanese medical team arrived in Qiqihar on Saturday to assist victims of the leak.

The medical team led by Kawakami Fumihiro, an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, visited the No 203 Hospital of the People's Liberation Army on Saturday afternoon and exchanged views with Chinese experts.

Japan is ready to make joint efforts with China to deal with the accident, he said, stressing that treating the victims is the most important task at present.

Two more victims of the poisonous mustard gas from weapons abandoned by Japanese troops in Qiqihar were hospitalized yesterday morning, bringing the total number to 43.

Loader Bai Hongwei was hurt by the poisoning gas while leveling ground and his right leg was covered by erythema when he was sent to the No 203 Hospital.

Wang Xiang, who lived near the polluted construction site, was confirmed a mustard gas victim upon hospitalization with his back and waist blistering.

Conditions of Bai and Wang are currently stable, according to hospital sources.

By 11 am on Sunday, six out of the 43 hospitalized victims are in serious conditions.

Twenty-five patients have reported improved conditions and 10 people nearly recovered.

The youngest victim is 8 years old and the eldest 53.

Gai Zunxu, a pupil at Tianqi Primary School, was poisoned earlier last week while playing at the No 5 Middle School, one of the 11 places contaminated by the chemical weapons dug up at a construction site.

Blisters had appeared on the backs of his feet when he was admitted to hospital on Wednesday, according to hospital sources.

The chemical weapons, discovered on August 4, were stored in five metallic barrels, one of which was accidentally broken, causing an oil-like substance to leak into the soil.

Unaware of the nature of the material, two workers later bought the barrels, cut them up, and then sold them to a recycle material shop in a residential community.

The situation worsened when the polluted soil from the construction site was removed to several different places.

The city was occupied by Japanese troops for 14 years.

A total of 775 bombs and artillery shells and 28 gas bombs abandoned by Japanese troops have been found in the city since 2001.

(Xinhua News Agency August 17, 2003)

Japanese Medical Team Arrives in Qiqihar
Japanese Gas May Infect More Victims
Japan to Send Experts to Deal with Chemical Weapons Issue
Japan to Discuss Compensation for Chinese Gas Leak Victims
Gas Poisoning Victims Remain Critical
Gas Victims Demand Compensation
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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