An estimated 13 tonnes of the chemical, believed to be a hydrocarbon solvent, is thought to have leaked from a container at the factory owned by paint and dye company Polifarb in the Polish border town of Cieszyn.

The solvent had soaked into the soil at the factory before seaping into the neighbouring river.

Polish authorities had limited success tackling the spill, but Czech firefighters set up a floating boom down stream which they claim contained the worst of it.

The cross-boundary pollution incident has echoes of the much larger scale Harbin disaster, and the Eastern European countries have worked closely together to contain the spill.

The Polish emergency team told the Prague Daily Monitor, a Czech English language new service, that both countries were briefed on the accident as soon as the authorities had been made aware of it.

“Right now, we only know that a dye solvent of petrol origin leaked within the premises of the Polifarb dyes and paints producer,” Wladyslaw Blicharski, a spokesman for the local authority in Cieszyn, is reported as saying.

“The relevant authorities have been informed about the accident. Polish and Czech firefighters are working on the removal of the accident.”

The likely environmental impact of the spill and necessary remedial work will not be known until the chemical involved have been analysed.

By Sam Bond

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