Toxic waste dumping in Ivory Coast unleashes chaos

Chaos still reigns in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, a month after 400 tons of toxic waste were illegally dumped at 14 open-air sites near residential areas. The black sludge — petroleum waste containing hydrogen sulfide and hydrocarbons — is letting off fumes that have sickened tens of thousands, killed seven, and angered countless others. On Friday, irate citizens protested by blockading streets with logs, old refrigerators, and burning tires (sure to enhance the air quality). They also beat up the former transport minister and burned his car, and set aflame the home of the suspended general manager of Abidjan’s port. The government had resigned in the wake of the scandal; President Laurent Gbagbo named a new cabinet on Saturday, with new environment and transportation ministers. The waste was shipped to the country by a Dutch-based company on a Panamanian-registered ship and handed over to an Ivorian firm; the government is still investigating who’s responsible for the mess. French firm Seche began cleanup operations on Sunday, indicating that it would take several weeks. The toxic sludge will eventually be shipped to Europe for disposal.