(Jun 26, 2007)

Protesters demand more money from Ivory Coast government for dumping

From AP

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) - Dozens of protesters blocked streets throughout Ivory Coast's commercial capital Tuesday, complaining that the government was holding back on reparations after noxious fumes engulfed Abidjan last year.

Police fired tear gas to break up Tuesday's demonstrations. But Denis Yao Pipira, head of a group of victims of the waste dumping, said they would protest again and again, ''until the president listens to us.''

In February, a Dutch commodities trader accused of shipping the waste to Ivory Coast for dumping agreed to make what it called a good faith payment of 152 million euros to the Ivorian government _ while denying responsibility. Last week, the Ivorian president said about three-quarters of the Trafigura Beheer BV payment would be used to compensate victims.

''We believe the state wants to make money out of our suffering,'' Pipira said, arguing all the Trafigura payment should go to the victims or their families.

But the government, in a weekend statement, said it needed some of the money, in part to recoup what it had spent on cleaning up the dumped waste.

At least 10 people died and around 100,000 others sought medical treatment after inhaling the fumes emitted by sludge dumped at 17 sites around Abidjan in August. Many of the dump sites were near homes.

The waste was offloaded Aug. 19 from the Probo Koala, a vessel chartered by Trafigura, which contracted a locally registered company called Tommy to dispose of the waste.

Trafigura says the waste was a mix of gasoline residues, water and caustic sodas used for cleaning that would not have been harmful. U.N. experts, however, say the waste contained hydrogen sulfide, which in concentrated doses can kill humans.

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