Chinese construction workers unleash alleged WWII chemicals

Thirty-four people have been hospitalized in China after construction workers found and opened metal drums containing chemical weapons allegedly left behind by Japanese troops during World War II.

Two people are “close to death” according to China’s official media. Most of the injured are construction workers.

The workers found five metal barrels last week in the city of Qiqihar in Heilongjiang province and opened one, causing an oil-like substance to seep into the soil, according to the China Daily. They later cut the barrels into pieces and sold them to a recycling facility. Polluted soil was then moved to other locations as part of the construction work.

Victims and their families are reported to have called for compensation from Japan. Japanese experts are in Qiqihar to investigate. This weekend the two countries celebrated the 25th anniversary of the signing of a peace treaty concluding World War II.

The retreating Japanese army allegedly left behind large amounts of chemical weapons – some buried or otherwise concealed. Chinese plaintiffs have filed several cases against the Japanese government claiming injury on account of the weapons.