Toxic cloud looms over Russian town

Poisonous emissions from a metallurgical plant in the north-western Russian town of Nikel are suffocating the surrounding area. As a result, the local hospital is filled with coughing patients and an investigation has been launched.

Ecologists are taking samples of gas coming out of the main smoke stack at a metallurgical plant in the Murmansk region. The investigation comes after the neighbouring town was covered by a poisonous cloud of smoke and dust from the smelter.

The results of the tests will be known in three days, but the effects of the noxious emissions are already obvious in the local ecology and on the health of the people.

The town's hospital has registered a leap in the number of patients seeking treatment for asthma and other breathing problems.

As Tatyana Krinina, a physician, says, they “had a number of visitors with chronic diseases like bronchial asthma. They weren't feeling well – they were short of breath.”  

The factory has already accepted full responsibility for the problems. It has admitted to discharging polluting materials, although management maintains the level of stack emissions was within the norms and regulations of Russia.   

“Yes, there are some meteorological conditions when the gas can move towards the settlements, but there are special


We had a number of visitors with chronic diseases like bronchial asthma. They weren't feeling well; they were short of breath.

Tatyana Krinkina, phisician
procedures in this case – we lower the pressure in the furnaces,”  Mikhail Shkondin, the head of factory's ecology monitoring department, commented.  

Local prosecutors have launched an inquiry into the case. But residents in the area have not called for the plant to be closed, as it is the main employer in the district.  

The metals firm has promised to install new equipment to lower emissions, but it says it will take several years.

Meanwhile, the toxic cloud is still being blown by the wind into the homes of nearby residents.