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Kazakh Deputy PM Tells Villagers Fainting Spells Under Investigation

BERYOZOVKA, Kazakhstan -- A senior government official visited a village in western Kazakhstan on December 12 to try to calm fears over fainting spells that residents believe are caused by toxic gas from a nearby oil field.

More than 50 people in Beryozovka, most of them teenagers, have fainted for unexplained reasons since November 28.

Media reports say that eight teenagers were hospitalized on December 11 after losing consciousness.

Deputy Prime Minister Berdibek Saparbaev told residents a commission has been established to investigate.

On December 3, regional prosecutor Serik Qaramanov said that an accident at the Qarashyghanaq oil field several days earlier caused a significant leak of highly toxic sulphureted hydrogen gas.

A local ecologist and consultant for regional NGO Crude Accountability, Sergei Solyanik, told RFE/RL last week that local residents have been urging officials to relocate them since 2002.

Saparbaev said a decision on the possible relocation of residents would be made after January 20, when the commission is due to finish its work.

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