INTRODUCTION: Seven months after the toxic chemical explosion which hit the little town of Salvos in Northern Italy, the area is still sealed off while scientists continue to investigate the danger to life.
INTRODUCTION: Seven months after the toxic chemical explosion which hit the little town of Salvos in Northern Italy, the area is still sealed off while scientists continue to investigate the danger to life. Following the explosion of dioxin gas at a chemical works near the town last July, two deformed babies have been born. Their mothers were in the Salvos area at the time of the disaster -- and they're only among the first several hundred potential births conceived at the time.
SYNOPSIS: The nearest major town to the disaster area is Milan, to the south. The town has almost become the 'operations head-quarters' for the emergency services, and a laboratory there is dealing with investigations into the disaster. A table-map of the Salvos area -- all 700 acres of it (about 300 hectares) -- is a focal point of the investigation. It shows, acre by acre, the contaminated region and the surrounding area, with potentially hazardous zones alongside. Analysts in the Milan laboratories have reported finding traces of the poisonous dioxin in vegetables several miles (kilometres) from the Salvos area, raising fears among scientists that the pollution from last year's explosion was much wider than expected.
Since the Salvos disaster, many local inhabitants have attempted to return to their homes. Recently, extra troops moved in to cordon off the area following the fresh discovery that more than 300 children from Salvos and its surrounding area were suffering from chloracne, a severe skin disease believed to be caused by the poisonous gas. Among prime suspects of the disease carriers are animals -- including rabbits and chickens. They're among the objects of scientific surveys into the after-effects of the explosion still being carried out. Local and national authorities, however, have come under severe criticism for slow action in the disaster area -- and for failing to clear the pollution from the land more quickly.
Although two babies have been malformed, five others were apparently normal at birth. About 30 Salvos woman are known to have had therapeutic abortions.
Meanwhile, the investigations go on. Dogs running wild on waste ground carrying dioxin poison are not stopped. They're allowed to carry on, under close observation, in the interests of further research. But the long-term effects are still unknown -- and will be for time to come.