Hundreds Ill After Toxic Spill in Peru
It began with a loud pop like a tire bursting. A toxic cocktail of copper concentrate laced with a periodic-table’s mix of volatile compounds then shot skyward. The pipeline that carries slurry at high pressure from Peru’s most productive mine 188 miles (302 kilometers) to its desert coast had sprung a leak at a pumping station in Santa Rosa de Cajacay, a village of poor farmers. It was 9:15 a.m.
Abraham Balabarca, who was building a house nearby, ran to the station with others to try and halt the flow. But the door was chained and bolted. The security guard had no key. By the time someone pried open the lock with a crowbar, the town was shrouded in a toxic cloud. In the next days, about 350 villagers would be treated for headaches, respiratory tract bleeding, nausea and vomiting, according to the mayor’s office. At least 69 were children.
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