VOLOKOLAMSK, Russia -- Angry residents scuffled with government officials in a town near Moscow where dozens of children were brought to hospital after apparently breathing toxic gas leaked from a landfill.
Pyotr Lazarev, the mayor of Volokolamsk, told Current Time TV that the children were rushed to hospital on March 21 with gas-poisoning symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, bleeding noses, and fainting.
"The situation is very serious. The children were taken to the clinic by ambulances. Parents are gathered near the hospital, demanding clear information on their children's diagnoses. [Doctors] say it is poisoning," Lazarev said on March 21.
Current Time TV showed footage of hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital yelling and pelting Moscow region's Governor Andrei Vorobyov with snowballs.
An RFE/RL correspondent reported that residents also surrounded the head of the Volokolamsk district, Yevgeny Gavrilov, who had arrived near the hospital where the children were being treated.
Online news agency RTVi posted what appeared to be a video of the incident, showing residents swearing at Gavrilov and attempting to physically assault him before he was led away by guards. One of the protesters yelled "killer" as he was taken away.
RTVi reported that at least six security vehicles later arrived at the hospital, with riot police being posted outside the building.
The incidents come just weeks after Volokolamsk authorities declared a temporary state of emergency on March 7, saying that the level of hydrogen sulphide in the air was recorded as 2.5 times higher than normal and the level of nitric oxide was double usual levels because of a gas leak at the landfill.
The Yadrovo landfill was opened in 2008 and is a dumping site for garbage from Moscow and nearby regions.
Local resident Sergei Zhukov told RFE/RL that all day on March 21, children, including his daughter, were being brought to the hospital.
On a video placed on VKontakte social network, a doctor is seen briefing concerned parents, telling them that 50 children were hospitalized from the two schools in Volokolamsk.
The Moscow region's health authority said 50 children received medical treatment, five of whom were hospitalized, but added that it had not been confirmed that was linked to a gas leakage at the landfill.
Earlier on March 21, Russian media reported that 23 children were brought to hospital in Volokolamsk after unidentified individuals sprayed gas inside a school.
However, parents insist that their children felt unwell because of a gas leakage at the landfill, accusing media outlets of spreading false information on purpose.
Local residents have been staging protests, demanding the closure of the landfill for some time. A previous protest, on March 8, was violently dispersed by riot police.
And on March 3, some 5,000 protesters rallied in Volokolamsk and demanded the landfill’s closure, with many complaining of a bad odor in the air.
Local authorities promised "to modernize" the landfill but refused to consider closing it.