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Mystery gas hits town in Irkutsk region as flowers die and people suffer toxic poisoning

By The Siberian Times reporter
15 February 2016

Officials insist there is no problem but this is not how locals see it in Cheremkhovo town.

Oksana Meznikova, 54, was to leave her hous because there is othing to breathe there. Picture: Vesti Irkutsk

Oksana Meznikova, 54, was the first to notice a strange smell - seemingly like a mixture of gasoline and an unidentified chemical. She opened all her windows and vents but to no avail. 

State inspectors arrived and found no major problem but said it could have been a barrel of paint having spilled. Oksana was unconvinced as her house plants died. She moved the family to rented accommodation nearby. 

Dmitry Bogdanov, 26, Oksana's son, said: 'I went out to the street, and almost lost consciousness. I called the ambulance, and they brought me to hospital.' The diagnosis was - acute toxic poisoning. He required one week's treatment. 

Cheremkhovo on the map


Cheremkhovo general view

Cheremkovo lies on a significant coal deposit, part of the Irkutsk basin. Pictures: The Siberian Times

Another resident nearby Olga Voitishenko, 37, a mother of one, said: 'We are afraid that one day we will go to bed and never wake up. I fear for my child.' She invited inspectors from Rospotrebnadzor, in charge of protecting consumer rights in Russia. They could not identify the gas but said it was 60 times over allowable levels. 

Another neighbour said: 'I started having headaches, which I'd never known before. And just like the others, my leaves fell off my pot flowers. I used to have a Monstera growing up to the ceiling.'

The resilient plant suddenly wilted. 'Now all the leaves on top turned yellow with black spots, as if burned. All the vents are open for my children, so they do not get sick.'

One theory is a methane gas leak. The area lies on a significant coal deposit, part of the Irkutsk basin. Yet methane is not seen as a problem in this deposit. 

Olga Voytishenko


Dmitry Bogdanov

Olga Voitishenko, 37, fears for her child's health. Dmitry Bogdaov, 26, was himself poisoned and spet a week i a hospital. Pictures: Odoklassiniki, Vesti Irkutsk

The noxious gas smell has spread from Konstantina Zaslonova Street to Kirova Street. People here described the pong as more like 'burning slag'.

One local said: 'We feel dizziness, cough appeared. But what can we do? We ventilate the house, all is opened, but the smell does not go away. The administration knows about our problem.' She claimed officialdom was 'useless' and sent them on a 'vicious circle' to get help.

A local spokesman insisted: 'We do not have any unknown gas. Since we were passed information about this case, we have received calls every day. Residents report about the suspicious smell. 

Abandoned house


Dead flowers


Locals are worrying

Locals are worrying for their children's health, but the authorities can not help them. Pictures: Vesti Irkutsk

'In fact, in the first case, there is a smell of gasoline from underground. We wrote a letter to the prosecutor's office and the police, so they would send their people and check - perhaps someone's barrel of gasoline leaked, rusted, and gasoline leaked into the soil. 

'If we talk about natural gas, such as methane, it has no smell.' 

Comments (1)

Here in the US, we are currently dealing with the city of Flint, Michigan 's water being poisoned by lead and Porter Ranch, CA being sickened by a high volume natural gas leak. I mention these two current events to hopefully show people you are not alone. In reading through the different observations, "They could not identify the gas but said it was 60 times over allowable levels." "Burning slag" and “yellow with black spots” on dying plants would seem to indicate a corrosive compound in this vapor/gas? Could one of the University or Medical labs help with the identification? Coal deposits can also contain sulfur compounds is just one thought (I am a Chemical/Bio-Engineer), which is not always immediately recognizable by a rotten egg smell. The extent of the area impacted would seem to indicate more than one isolated underground tank rupture (just another idea).
Pamela Tetarenko, League City, USA
15/02/2016 21:01
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