Pressure increases over Formosa disaster

The protesters are demanding more compensation and the closure of the plant

The protesters are demanding more compensation and the closure of the plant

Thousands of protesters surrounded the Formosa Ha Tinh steel plant amid growing frustration at the slow pace of compensation paid to victims of one of Vietnam’s worst environmental disasters.

Witnesses estimated that ten thousand people descended on the site on Sunday morning to call for the closure of the Taiwanese run steel plant and to demand compensation.

The subsidiary of the Formosa Plastics Group admitted in late June that toxic leaks from the steel plant had poisoned fish along more than 200 km of Vietnam’s central coastline.

The group agreed to pay compensation of $500 million to the 200,000 people whose livelihoods were affected by the disaster.

Some of the protesters climbed walls and held up banners demanding closure.

Lines of police with helmets and shields prevented access to the plant but there were no reports of clashes or arrests.

The government has said it will begin payouts this month of up $1,600 for fishermen who lost most in the disaster.

Hundreds of fishermen had filed lawsuits in the previous days to demand more compensation from the Taiwanese company.

Many petitioners from a Catholic parish in Ky Anh were taken by bus to the local court to submit their claims.

Reports said that court officials were at first reluctant to accept the documents but later relented.

Activist groups have complained that Formosa has not been held fully accountable for the mass fish poisoning that began in April. They say the investigation into its role was not transparent.

Fishermen and their families say the compensation offered, in an agreement with the government, is not adequate, and that the steel plant cannot be trusted to enforce environmental regulations in the future.