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Cleanup after rocket crash in Kazakhstan completed

RIA Novosti

15/10/2007 13:38 ASTANA, October 15 (RIA Novosti) - Kazakhstan has completed decontamination work at the site where a Russian Proton rocket crashed last month, the Central Asian country's emergencies ministry said on Monday.

"Soil samples from the crash side indicate... that the heptyl [toxic fuel] concentration is within safety limits," the statement said.

On September 6, a Proton-M rocket was launched from the Baikonur space center, which Russia leases in Kazakhstan. However, engine malfunction and second-stage separation failure led to its crash 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of the town of Zhezkazgan in the Karaganda Region.

The Proton is a heavy rocket which uses highly toxic heptyl as fuel. The rocket was carrying almost 219 metric tons of the fuel

Kazakhstan is seeking 1.5 billion rubles ($60 million) from Russia in compensation for the crash, a Kazakh regional governor announced earlier. The contaminated zone covers 32,000 hectares of agricultural land, he said.

The government has said residents of the risk zone will receive compensation.

Search teams have examined the territory around the crash site and have found 119 rocket fragments. Russian experts cleared the area where the rocket's booster came down four times, after post-decontamination laboratory tests revealed that toxic fuel concentration in more than a half of 20 soil samples taken from the site exceeded permitted levels.

The incident was the sixth Russian rocket crash after takeoff from Baikonur. Preliminary investigations suggest the crash was caused by a thrust steering mechanism failure.

Last year, a Russian Dnepr rocket crashed on lift off from Baikonur, after which a special commission was formed to assess the resulting environmental damage. On the basis of its findings, Russia paid Kazakhstan $1.1 million in compensation.

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