By Astghik Bedevian
More than a hundred residents of the central Armenian town of Aparan have reportedly been poisoned as a result of what authorities believe was a serious contamination of drinking water.
Minister for Local Government Hovik Abrahamian presided Friday over an emergency meeting at the Aparan municipality that discussed urgent measures against the disease outbreak that was first registered there Tuesday. The meeting was attended by Health Minister Norayr Davidian, Armenia’s chief sanitary inspector, local government officials as well as representatives of the national water utility.
According to Hayk Shmavonian, director of the municipal hospital, 23 people have been hospitalized and diagnosed with dysentery. “The condition of the patients is good,” he told RFE/RL. “The hospital has all the necessary equipment and medicines to treat them.”
“One child was discharged today. We will start discharging others from Monday,” he said.
Other officials in Aparan said the outbreak is now under control, arguing that no fresh poisoning cases were registered on Friday.
“My mother, daughter, granddaughter were all taken to hospital with fever and diarrhea,” Larisa, a middle-aged local woman, told RFE/RL. “There isn’t a single household in our apartment block which is unaffected by this,” she added. “It all started on January 4 or 5.”
Levon Khachatrian, a pro-government parliamentarian representing the local constituency, blamed the disease outbreak on a sewage leak. “It’s clear that this is the result of the poor state of the water distribution system,” he said. “Forensic tests suggest that sewage got mixed up with drinking water.”
But Kamo Aghababian, technical director of a state-owned utility managing the water distribution networks outside Yerevan, insisted that this was not necessarily the case. “At this point it is still difficult to tell the cause of the accident,” he said.
Utility workers were still trying to locate the source of the contamination as of Friday evening. They assured the population of the small town 60 kilometers north of Yerevan that water supplied to their homes has already been disinfected by additional amounts of chlorine.