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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nanai Endangered by Toxic Slick

APYevgenia Osadchaya fears the poisoned Amur River will kill her people.
SIKACHI-ALYAN, Far East -- Yevgenia Osadchaya is beside herself with worry, wondering how her family will survive when the toxic slick flowing from China pollutes the Amur River that provides the livelihood for her family and her native Nanai people.

"Not eat fish for a whole year?" cried the 47-year-old, who is legally blind with cataracts. "How will our nation, the Nanai, live? We'll all die."

The native peoples of the Far East, many of whom rely on the Amur for their food and income, are among those most endangered by the imminent arrival of 100 tons of benzene released into an upriver tributary after a Chinese chemical plant explosion on Nov. 13. Authorities expect the slick to cross the border Dec. 10 or 11, and restrictions on eating Amur fish could last a year or more.

The native people "live from fish. But trading in fish will likely be banned," said Natalya Zimina, spokeswoman for the Khabarovsk administration. She said authorities would strive to inform the villagers that eating the affected fish was even worse than drinking the water. About 11,000 Nanai people live in the region.

In the city of Khabarovsk, anger over the mess sparked a small rally Friday at the Chinese consulate. Protesters from nationalist party Rodina chanted: "The Amur isn't a yellow river!" in reference to China. The Chinese consul general tried to reassure them the Chinese were doing all they could, including a free shipment of 150 tons of activated charcoal to help filter affected water, which arrived Saturday.