Russia has evacuated more than 4,000 children from a town in Crimea hit by noxious sulphur dioxide gas, allegedly from a huge nearby titanium plant.
Armyansk, home to about 22,000 people, lies near the de facto Ukrainian border. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March 2014.
The Russian-installed Crimean leader, Sergei Aksyonov, says the plant that produces titanium dioxide – widely used in industry – is now suspending output. Acid from a reservoir has been blamed.
Experts believe the problem is that the summer heat evaporated a huge quantity of sulphuric acid dumped in the reservoir and noxious sulphur dioxide gas has been blowing from it across Armyansk. Residents are wearing face masks, which are now reported to be in short supply.
The sulphuric acid reservoir covers 42sq km (16 sq miles) and the “Titan” plant itself is 34 years old. Titanium dioxide – a white powder – is much in demand, for example in the paint industry and pharmaceuticals. But the Titan plant is reported to be in financial difficulties.