Cyanide Spill Poisons TiszaAired February 12, 2000 - 8:14 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: A cyanide spill contaminating a major European river has made its way into Yugoslavia. The spill originated in Northwest Romania. And from there, the polluted water flowed west into the Tisza River in neighboring Hungary and then onto Yugoslavia. Serbian officials say much of the life in the river is already dead. In Hungary, up to 100-tons of fish were poisoned by the cyanide spill.
CNN's Alex Kuli (ph) with more.
ALEX KULI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're calling it a river of gashed streaks. Thousands of fishermen once made their living on the Tisza River in Southeastern Hungary. Now, they say an accident at the Aurul gold plant in Baia Mare, Romania, has poisoned the Tisza with cyanide. They say a retaining dam at the plant overflowed last month, unleashing an environmental disaster. Officials say up to 90 percent of the fish are dead.
IMRE GYROGY TOROK, LOWER TISZA DISTRICT WATER AUTHORITY: It is very serious. I have never found such a serious problem in -- during my more than three decades of practice, and all because of the very high concentration of this toxic material.
KULI: Officials say the cyanide level is 130 times the legal limit, far above the level needed to kill marine life. The poisonous waves are beginning to reach as far south as Yugoslavia.
The Tisza is one of Hungary's top tourist attractions, and experts say it will be years before the river recovers.
But the Aurul gold plant's Australian owners say they doubt the contamination could've gotten so far downstream. They say there's no evidence linking the dead fish to last month's accident in Baia Mare.
BRETT MONTGOMERY, ESMERALDA EXPLORATION LTD.: These claims cause me a considerable skepticism. It's most unlikely that, given the volume of water and the distance traveled, the cyanide levels would be such to cause poisoning. In fact, it's quite possible that a number of unrelated events could be responsible.
KULI: But Hungary's fishermen blame the company. And they're demanding compensation for their lost livelihood.
Alex Kuli, CNN.
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