China working `round the clock' to minimize river-borne pollution bound

Chinese workers are rushing to finish a temporary dam meant to reduce the impact on a Russian city of 580,000 people from a river-borne chemical spill, a Chinese official said Tuesday. Work began Friday to dam a waterway along the Heilong River, which is carrying the toxic spill from a Chinese chemical plant explosion toward the city of Khabarovsk in Russia's Far East.

"Chinese workers are braving the cold and working around the clock to insure the dam will be built as soon as possible," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang.

Daytime high temperatures in the area this week have been about -15 degrees centigrade (5 degrees Fahrenheit).

The workers are trying to block a waterway linking the Heilong to the Wusuli River, which also supplies water to Khabarovsk, in an effort to protect the Wusuli from contamination. The chemical plant explosion in the Chinese city of Jilin spewed 100 tons of benzene, nitrobenzene and other toxins into the Songhua.

Moscow said Friday the spill has reached Russian territory, flowing from China's Songhua River into the Heilong. It is expected to hit Khabarovsk on Wednesday or Thursday, according to Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry.

The temporary dam will be removed after the pollutant slick passes Khabarovsk along the Heilong River, Qin said. He said China is paying to build and demolish it. "China stands ready to work with Russia to minimize the impact of the pollution," Qin said, reports the AP. I.L.

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