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The toxic spill has already reached the northern Chinese city of Harbin and its several million inhabitants (AFP)
24 November 2005 -- Chinese officials on 24 November were defending their failure to report a major chemical-plant explosion for 10 days even as a state committee for environmental issues said the resulting toxic spill will reach the Amur River that marks the border between China and Russia within two weeks.
The deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration, Zhang Lijun, said at a news conference in Beijing that local officials in Harbin were given adequate notice and that no one has been sickened so far.
The government did not publicly confirm that the Songhua River had been poisoned with chemicals until 23 November, a full 10 days after the explosion at a chemical plant in Jilin, some 200 kilometer southeast of Harbin.
China and Russia agreed today to set up a telephone hot line so Beijing could inform Moscow about the progress of the toxic water as it approaches the Russian border.
Government officials in the Russian city of Khabarovsk, on the banks of the Amur River, met today to discuss measures to deal with the spill. Russian officials say the spill is moving at a rate of 100 kilometers per day.
The spill -- which spans 80 kilometers -- today reached the Chinese city of Harbin, home to several million people. Harbin is 700 kilometers upstream from Khabarovsk.