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IVORY COAST: Ivorians to sue 'toxic ship' firm

BBC News
October 24th, 2006

A Dutch lawyer representing some 1,000 victims of toxic waste dumped in Ivory Coast says he is suing the company that shipped the waste there.

Dutch firm Trafigura has denied responsibility for dumping the waste in the city of Abidjan, saying it employed a local company to dispose of it.

But the lawyer says Trafigura should pay $12.5m within two weeks as a preliminary settlement.

Ten people died and many thousands more needed treatment after the dumping.

About 40,000 people were treated in hospital for nausea, breathing problems and nosebleeds.


Correspondents say other legal teams are preparing cases against the people that handled the waste.

"Trafigura is responsible because they knew what it [the waste] was or they should have known," Dutch lawyer Bob van der Goen told Reuters news agency.

"They should have known that Ivory Coast couldn't process this waste. They should have known the danger for people and the environment."

Journalist Pauline Bax in Abidjan says the lawyer believes this is just a preliminary claim and the real amount will be much higher.

Ten people, including two French Trafigura executives, have been charged in connection with the discharge.

Trafigura first attempted to discharge the chemical slops, which contains mercaptan, from one of its tankers, the Probo Koala in the Dutch port of Amsterdam in early August.

But the company that was to dispose of the waste suddenly increased its charges dramatically - asking for 40 times more to treat the waste.

Trafigura refused, and the tanker proceeded to Nigeria.

There it tried to offload the waste, but again failed to reach an agreement with two local firms.

It was only in Ivory Coast that it managed to find a company to handle the waste at a cost the company would accept.

On 19 August the waste was discharged near Abidjan. Two weeks later the first complaints arose.

Instead of being incinerated as it should have been, the waste had been dumped.

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