Toxic smoke from Croatia depot fire spreads, raising ecological risks

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A large fire at a plastics depot in the eastern Croatian town of Osijek early on Wednesday has spread to a nearby building where chemicals were stored, releasing toxic fumes that could pose ecological risks as strong winds began to carry them south, officials said.

Residents near the outskirts of Osijek where the fire began were urged to remain indoors and keep windows shut as clouds of thick, black smoke enshrouded the area. Schools were closed and there were unconfirmed reports the smoke was moving towards Bosnia in the south.

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Ivan Anušić, governor of the Osijek-Baranja region, accused the owners of the depot, Drava International, which makes plastics, of neglect and violations of law.

“Our children cannot go to school, this smoke is carcinogenic,” Anusic told N1 television. “This has created an ecological disaster which will hit the whole region, and some neighboring (regions) as well.”

Three firefighters were injured while trying to extinguish the fire, which began after midnight at Drava’s depot in Osijek, local media reported.

Dragan Vulin, head of the Osijek civil protection headquarters, said the fire was still not under control.

Anusic said this was the fourth such fire at the company in the past decade.

Worried residents gathered around the area hit by the fire.

“It’s not easy for us to watch this, we live here, some 100-200 meters from the factory,” a man who gave just his first name as Zeljko told Reuters Television. “I think this is an ecological bomb that is at the entrance of the town.”

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