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Floods wash chemicals into river

Workers have begun cleaning up a chemical spill in north-eastern China after more than 3,000 containers of chemicals were washed into a river by the worst floods to hit the country in more than a decade.

The buckets, containing a flammable chemical used to make rubber and adhesives, tumbled into the Songhua River near Jilin city in Jilin province after a flood swept through a local factory, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Only about 400 buckets have been recovered so far.

The Jilin environmental protection agency and water bureau fanned out around the city testing water sources and checking for possible leaks in the barrels, said an official with the Jilin Water Bureau.

"Some residents are worried, but we have yet to find any leaks in the barrels of chemicals, so they should not be worried about their water quality," the official said.

The Songhua has had environmental problems before. In 2005 carcinogenic chemicals, including benzene, spilled into the river, forcing the north-eastern city of Harbin to sever water supplies to 3.8 million people for five days.

Floods this year killed at least 928 people, left 477 missing and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage, the State Flood Control and Drought Prevention office reported.

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