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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Khabarovsk Braces for Toxic Pollution

Itar-TassA store employee in Khabarovsk putting up a sign on Thursday indicating that supplies of mineral water had run out.
Russia and China said Thursday that they were setting up a hotline so that Beijing could keep Moscow informed about the toxic river pollution heading for the Khabarovsk region from the Chinese city of Harbin, nearly two weeks after an explosion at a petrochemical plant.

The Federal Service for the Inspection of Natural Resources Use said it feared the pollution would affect drinking water supplies in the region, into which the Songhua River flows several hundred kilometers from Harbin.

China attaches "great importance to the harm and impact this pollution may bring our neighbor Russia," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters in Beijing.

Russia's ambassador to China, Sergei Razov, confirmed plans for a hotline but played down the threat to Russia. "The Chinese assume that the contaminated water will reach Russian territory by Dec. 8," Channel One television showed Razov saying after a meeting with Chinese officials. "But by then, for natural reasons, including the fact three major rivers flow into the Sungari, the concentration of harmful substances should go down to normal." In Russia, the Songhua River is called the Sungari.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said tests showed that no dangerous substances had yet reached the Amur River. Underground water sources were being tapped to increase bottled water supplies and deliveries were being made to residents, the ministry said in a statement.

Television newscasts showed shops in Khabarovsk stocking up with extra drinking water and reported that some owners had already raised prices.

Officials were pictured scooping up river water through holes in the ice to test for signs of pollution.