March 30 (UPI) — Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry distributed gas masks Friday to residents living near a landfill near Moscow because of toxic fumes coming from the dump.
Authorities said a state of emergency exists over rising levels of hydrogen sulfide in the air, to at least ten times above the permitted level.
Protests, which began last month, reignited after nearly 60 children were taken to the hospital last week for nausea and headaches stemming from the fumes.
“Now we have introduced a high alert mode. On Friday we start entering Emergency State. We heard you,” A leader of the Volokolamsk district, Andrei Vikharev, said at a protest.
Vikharev added that schools in the area would be closed until the issue is resolved.
A state of emergency allows Russian towns to seek funding from Moscow for equipment, medical supplies and temporary accommodations. Travel restrictions may also be put in place, officials said.
Thursday, 6,000 people attended protests outside the town hall and authorities rejected demands to close the garbage dump.
Yulia Odintsova, who’s lived near the landfill for more than 40 years, told the Guardian neighbors have abandoned their homes due to the fumes.
“It has changed my life completely,” Odintsova said.
Ten-year-old Tatyana Lozova pointed two fingers at the Gov. Andrei Vorobyov during protests and then made a throat-slitting gesture — an image that spread quickly on social media.
The Yadrovo landfill was opened in 2008. Last year, Russian officials published ecological data revealing the region’s air had dangerous concentrations of chlorine, hydrogen sulfide and nitrogen. Iron was also discovered in the town’s water supply.
The old part of the Yadrovo site is set to close in April. A new segment opened last week and will function at least until 2030.
Last week, the Russian government said they were working to find a solution to the landfill issue.
“The presidential staff has been in touch with the leaders of the respective regions, that is, Moscow and the Moscow Region, and the government. Various options are being discussed to solve this significant problem. Naturally, the president is briefed on the issue,” Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said, adding that work was “in progress” to address the garbage dump problem.