6,000 Dead pigs pulled from river in China

Shanghai, Mar 13 (EFE).- Authorities in Shanghai have pulled around 6,000 dead pigs from the Huangpu River, one of the main water sources for this Chinese city of 24 million residents.

The problem, which became known last Friday with the discovery of the first pig carcasses in the village of Maogang, has spread to other rural districts and to Minhang, which is closer to the urban center.

In Songjiang alone by Tuesday afternoon 5,916 dead pigs had been taken from the river, a number that is expected to increase, according to the official Shanghai Daily on Wednesday.

Authorities deny that an epidemic is causing the pigs to die, despite the fact that on Monday the presence of a potentially lethal swine virus was detected in the river waters and the next day the entrails of a pig infected with that virus were collected.

The virus cannot be spread from pigs to humans.

Water samples from the Huangpu River are being taken every hour near Maogang to guarantee that the water being pumped to people's homes is still potable.

Residents and authorities in the neighboring province of Zhejiang, which seems to be the point of origin for all the dead animals, said that thousands of pigs die of the cold every winter.

Some experts, however, find that explanation very improbable and fear that a swine epidemic may be afoot.

Zhejiang authorities said Tuesday that while they try to ensure that dead pigs are buried or cremated, often peasants simply throw the bodies into the river to dispose of them.

They also pointed to police action against unscrupulous traders who bought the dead pigs and sold the meat, using artificial coloring to disguise its substandard quality.

In the absence of those traders, this year local peasants are discarding dead pigs in the river to a much greater extent than usual, officials in Zhejiang said.