Newspaper article International New York Times

Taiwan-Owned Steel Plant Faulted in Vietnam Fish Kill ; Hanoi Asks $500 Million for Spill That Ruined Sea Life and Sickened Many

Newspaper article International New York Times

Taiwan-Owned Steel Plant Faulted in Vietnam Fish Kill ; Hanoi Asks $500 Million for Spill That Ruined Sea Life and Sickened Many

Article excerpt

The Vietnam government is seeking $500 million in compensation from Formosa Ha Tinh Steel for the spill that killed marine life and sickened many people.

The government of Vietnam, breaking its silence about a huge fish kill in April, said on Thursday that the coastal disaster was caused by a Taiwan-owned steel factory that discharged a combination of chemicals, including cyanide, into the ocean.

Mai Tien Dung, minister chairman of the government office, said the government was seeking $500 million in compensation from the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation for the chemical spill, which killed marine life and poisoned people along 120 miles of coastline in central Vietnam.

Mr. Dung said at a crowded news conference in Hanoi that the spill had occurred during a trial operation of the newly built factory's wastewater discharge system.

In a video played for reporters, the board chairman of Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, Tran Nguyen Thanh, acknowledged that the company, a subsidiary of the Formosa Plastics Group, had caused the spill.

"The company would like to take responsibility and apologize to Vietnam," he said.

The spill, one of Vietnam's largest environmental disasters, wiped out fish, squid and other marine life off the coast of four provinces south of the factory, destroying the livelihood of fishermen in the region. Many tons of dead fish washed up on beaches in central Vietnam for days starting in early April. An untold number of people who ate the fish became sick before the government banned their consumption.

Some criticized the government for withholding the names of the toxic agents even from poison victims and the doctors who were treating them.

The disaster led to widespread anger at the government, with protesters demonstrating throughout the country for more than a month. But instead of providing answers, the government cracked down on the protests. …

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