Accident hurts four at Russia chemical weapons plant
Four people working at a plant that destroys chemical weapons in north-central Russia were hospitalized after an accident exposed them to neurotoxic gas, an official said on Tuesday.
"On September 11, signs of intoxication by organic phosphorus compounds were detected in four employees" of the Maradykovsky plant, said Mikhail Manin, head of a regional department that oversees observance of international conventions on destroying chemical weapons.
"All four were hospitalized in a special hospital in Moscow and have already been released in a satisfactory condition," he told AFP. Until now, no information had been released about the incident.
A probe has been launched into the causes of the poisoning, which was possibly caused by a violation of standard procedures, he said.
The plant is based at the Maradykovsky chemical arsenal which contains 40,000 weapons with organic phosphorus compounds, equivalent to 17.4 percent of Russia's chemical weapons, according to the regional government website.
It is about 60 kilometres (35 miles) from regional centre Kirov.
The regional Communist party countered the official version Tuesday saying that the accident involved deadly gas sarin or soman, and affected 10 people.
"We know from the ground... that an accident happened, causing 10 people to be poisoned by sarin or soman gas," the party said in a statement on its website.
Both substances are toxic nerve agents whose production and stockpiling was outlawed in 1993 by the UN Chemical Weapons Convention.
The deadline for Russia to destroy its stockpiles is April 2012 however it has said that it will not complete destruction in time.
This is the third known accident at the plant in three years, one of which lead to a death, head of the Union for Chemical Safety Lev Fyodorov told AFP.
The plant is "in immediate proximity to Maradykovskaya station and near a village inhabited by hundreds of people," he said.
© 2010 AFP