'East Europe must learn from cyanide spill'

BUDAPEST, Mar 2, 2000 -- (Reuters) More must be done to prevent potential environmental disasters after a recent cyanide spill in Romania devastated an eastern European river network, a U.N. environmental official said on Wednesday.

"Let's use the lesson learned," Fritz Schlingemann, the European director of the U.N. Environmental Protection (UNEP) program, told Reuters.

"It's certain that a number of standards in Eastern Europe were not like those in Western Europe, so there may be more (dangerous) companies in the area," he said.

The spill of some 100,000 cubic meters of cyanide last month from the Romanian Aurul gold smelter, half owned by Australia's Esmeralda Exploration Ltd, caused one of Europe's worst environmental disasters.

Schlingemann spoke during a UNEP survey of the polluted rivers - the Samos, Tisza and Danube in Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Ukraine.

The group, working with the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube, includes 16 scientists and will draft an independent report on the spill.

Hungary, meanwhile, remains worried that more disasters could be waiting to happen, Hungarian Environmental Minister Pal Pepo told Reuters.

"We just a couple of days ago contacted the Romanian ask for some examinations around the catchment area in Romania," Pepo said.

"As far as I know, there are a lot of hot spots in that area. I asked them to take serious steps in controlling these hot spots because there is some kind of risk that (an accident) might happen again," he said.

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