China’s benzene spill flows toward Siberian tiger territory in Russia

China’s latest claim to international infamy — a Songhua River-borne, 100-ton, 90-odd-mile-long benzene spill — is expected to reach the Russian city of Khabarovsk, on the Amur River, next week. Conservationists in the region worry that the toxic slick will further imperil the extremely endangered Siberian tiger, which eats birds that feed on fish from the already-polluted Amur. In China, the government has vowed severe punishment for anyone who tried to cover up the spill, which originated with an explosion at a Jilin chemical plant on Nov. 13 but was not formally confirmed until 10 days later. The director of China’s environmental protection agency has resigned, the head of the chemical firm and other company managers have been fired, and Jilin vice mayor Wang Wei has apparently hanged himself — in the spill’s immediate aftermath, he said publicly that it would not cause widespread pollution.