At least 10 tonnes of dead fish have been pulled from a river following an ecological disaster with people warned not to enter the water due to a possible contamination with a toxic substance.
The fish were removed by anglers and volunteers along a 124 mile stretch of the River Oder in Poland, according to Przemyslaw Daca – head of State Water Holding which manages the country's waters.
Daca described the situation as a gigantic ecological catastrophe, with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki vowing to find and punish those responsible.
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The Oder is Poland's second largest river and flows along part of the border with Germany.
Ewa Drewniak, a biologist working with opposition political group Civic Coalition, blasted the Polish government for not reacting faster.
She said: "Dead fish have been flowing in the Oder for the past two weeks and people have not been informed about it, I've seen scores of people bathing in the river a week and a half ago, they were not aware of the danger, this is scandalous."
According to regional environmental protection authorities in Wroclaw, water samples taken from the Oder on July 28 showed an 80% probability that they contained the toxic substance mesitylene.
However, this was not present in samples taken after August 1.
On Wednesday (August 10) Daca said that low river levels due to drought may have potentially caused contamination.
He added that a strong oxidising agent may have gotten into the water, causing oxygen levels to spike and harming fish.
However, Daca said there was no need to panic and that the situation was improving.
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Several German districts on the border with Poland have advised people to avoid the river.
They also warned people not to eat fish from the Oder until the cause of the fish deaths is identified.
"The reports from the Oder are simply terrible," Michael Kellner of Germany's The Greens party said on Twitter.
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