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Cleanup of submerged cars leaking oil gets underway in a Lake Baikal area
Monday, July 21, 2003

BBC Monitoring International Reports
RTR Russia TV, Moscow

(Presenter) A unique operation to clean up Lake Baykal has begun in Irkutsk Region. Cars that litter the bottom of the lake continue to leak fuel. As a result, valuable species of fish are at risk. Vladimir Solovarov has the details:

(Correspondent) This film of oil is one of many that can be seen in the water of Lake Baykal. The bottom of the lake is littered with cars, scientists say. This is the only way to reach the mainland from the Island of Olkhon. It is this section of the lake that contains the largest number of objects which have sunk here over time. In the main, they are locals' cars.

So, an expedition of rescue and scientific personnel is now at work in the Olkhonskiye Vorota area. Both the petroleum products and the wreckage itself, according to experts, have begun to affect the lake's whitefish population.

(Maj-Gen Ilya Kozlov, head of Russian Emergencies Ministry Akvaspas centre) This is particularly dangerous in shallow waters. What happens is that these cars, which as a rule have a full tank of fuel, are now and then caught by fishermen's nets, overturned and shed fuel, which then rises to the surface.

(Correspondent) Modern equipment has enabled the experts of the Moscow institute of ocean studies to locate 150 dangerous objects. Before divers set about their work, this device, which contains a camera, is sent underwater.

(Boris Rozman, head of laboratory at the Russian Academy of Sciences Ocean Studies Institute) When we inspected objects on the bottom of the lake, it was both possible and necessary for us to take a look at what's inside. That work was greatly facilitated by this device.

(Correspondent) Before personnel from the Baykal search-and-rescue detachment begin to raise any such object, scientists must make sure that it will not leak any petroleum products. This particular car was raised from a ledge 30 metres deep. Eight have already been taken ashore, all of them to be recycled.

The problem is that most of them are at depths of more than 60 metres, where divers must not work without special equipment. The operation, therefore, will take longer and will last well into next year.


Kivu Refugees


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