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Kyrgyzstan: Landslide Poses Threat Of Ecological Disaster

Bishkek, 13 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- A landslide at a Soviet-era uranium-mining region in Kyrgyzstan has blocked a river and is posing a threat of radioactive floods as far away as Uzbekistan. The landslide blocked the Maili-Suu River yesterday less than a kilometer from the outskirts of a town by the same name. It was triggered by heavy rains and is about 60 kilometers upstream from a border crossing at Madanyat, Uzbekistan. The area around Maili-Suu contains radioactive waste dumped there before the uranium mines were closed in the early 1960s.

Our correspondent in Bishkek reports that Uzbekistan's Emergency Situations Ministry has been contacted and has sent experts to the site.

A team of European and Asian nuclear experts also are at the site today. They are studying the feasibility of moving some radioactive waste to another location. The foreign experts had planned to visit Maili-Suu before yesterday's landslide because the threat of such an accident already was well-known.