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`We want the truth!' Fear and suspicion in Rouen after chemical plant blaze - France24
Durand said tests had found no harmful toxins in the air or city water, though suggested that older people susceptible to breathing difficulties "may want to avoid going outside". As for the River Seine that flows through Rouen, downstream from Paris, Durand said there had been some pollution from the blaze, but insisted it had been contained with floating barriers.

Only hours later, however, France's health minister sounded a more cautious note after visiting the site.

"The city is clearly polluted," minister Agnès Buzyn told reporters, adding: "I cannot guarantee that there is no danger. There are of course traces of hydrocarbons."

Buzyn was the second of five ministers dispatched to Rouen amid government efforts to appear proactive in tackling the crisis. Last in line was Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who on Monday acknowledged the "unpleasant" odours that continued to hang over the city, but insisted they were "not harmful".

Critics were quick to point out the apparent contradiction between his claim and Buzyn's. If Philippe was so certain, they asked, why did local authorities order a precautionary ban on crops and produce of animal origin from the region?

French authorities have a long history of systematically hiding the true extent of industrial catastrophes to the public ("for their own good", presumably). The most infamous example being the 1986 denial of any contamination in France by the Chernobyl radioactive cloud.

"The French have not forgotten the tale of the Chernobyl cloud stopping at the border," remarked an editorial in French daily L'Union on Tuesday, referring to the infamous government claim that radiations from the 1986 nuclear disaster had miraculously stopped along the River Rhine, leaving France untouched.

"In seeking to reassure the public, this bizarre communication strategy has resulted in the opposite effect: an immense suspicion," added the paper, in a stinging rebuke of the present government's handling of the Lubrizol incident.

by Bernard on Fri Oct 4th, 2019 at 06:39:49 PM EST
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