HARBIN, (China), Nov 25 : Millions of residents in China's Harbin city endured their third full day without running water Friday due to a toxic chemical spill, as concerns grew over the long-term impacts of the disaster., report agencies.
Harbin's taps remained turned off as an 80-kilometer (50-mile) slick of the carcinogen benzene and nitrobenzene that was 30 times above national safety levels flowed slowly through the city along the partially frozen Songhua river.
While the government tried to reassure Harbin's 3.8 million urban residents that water supplies would resume quickly and safely, many people were still evacuating the city and engineers were continuing to sink dozens of wells.
Millions of bottles of water were also being trucked in to replenish supermarket and shop shelves that had been stripped bare at the beginning of the crisis.
The slick reached Harbin, the industrial capital of Heilongjiang province in China's far northeast, Thursday morning after taking 11 days to flow 380 kilometers down the Songhua from the spill site in neighbouring Jilin province.
The spill occurred after an explosion at the PetroChina chemical factory on November 13 in Jilin city, although the government refused to admit until Wednesday -- 10 days later -- that the river had been polluted.
Residents of villages and towns that lie along the Songhua between Jilin and Harbin said Friday they had never been told about the pollution and were still eating fish from the river.
The resident, a man in his early 50s who gave his surname as Wu, had just left the town market after buying a handful of small fish he said came from the Songhua.
Meanwhile:The Kremlin said Friday it was taking emergency steps to protect inhabitants of its Far East region from a toxic spill working its way down a river towards Russia from China, as calls grew in Moscow for compensation for the disaster from Beijing.
President Vladimir Putin's newly-appointed envoy to the Far East region, Kamil Iskhakov, signed an order creating a special emergency committee that he will lead to monitor the developments as the slick of cancer-causing benzene enters Russian territory and take measures to safeguard public health in the region.
"This headquarters will coordinate the work of operational groups and will provide updates on the situation twice daily based on analyses" of the information at hand, RIA-Novosti news agency quoted Iskhakov as saying.
The report said millions of local residents in the region faced a threat from contaminated drinking water drawn from the Amur river, known as the Heilong in China, and Russian media described the unfolding crisis as a "major ecological catastrophe."