People in the Russian region of Khabarovsk are bracing for the worst as polluted water originating from China heads their way.
The contamination was caused by an explosion at a petro-chemical plant in China’s Jilin province ten days ago.
Nearly 30 times the normal levels of chemicals containing benzene are now in the water in China’s Songhua River and an 80-kilometre stretch of polluted water is nearing the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin.
The water could eventually reach the Amur, the river which supplies the Khabarovsk region with drinking water.
A Russian official said tests will be carried out.
“The river’s ice will be drilled but everything depends on exactly what chemicals the water has been infected with,” she said.
The fear is that the water supply in Khabarovsk will have to be cut off. The polluted water is expected to reach the city by Saturday.
The head of a local environmental monitoring centre said there was a need to store drinking water and to keep a quantity of water in reserve.
Water supplies in Harbin have already been cut off and are being shipped in from neighbouring provinces. Supply was restored briefly to allow residents to stock up. Many have already done that.
There has been panic buying and some people have left the city.