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Britain Digging Foot-and-Mouth Mass Burial Site

March 26, 2001|From Associated Press

LONDON — As Britain struggled to keep up with the disposal of slaughtered livestock, the army started digging huge pits at an old air base Sunday for the mass burial of up to 500,000 carcasses from a foot-and-mouth epidemic.

Earthmovers formed huge trenches at an abandoned airfield in Cumbria, the hardest-hit county, with more than 190 farms affected.

Brig. Alex Birtwistle, who is leading the burial operation, called it "an apocalyptic task."

The government has said Britain will slaughter nearly all livestock on farms next to foot-and-mouth infection sites in an effort to contain the disease.

The government Sunday confirmed 27 new cases of the disease, including more than a dozen in Cumbria, bringing the total to 597. Some scientists believe that the figure could spiral to 4,000 by June.

In the Netherlands, government officials Sunday confirmed a new case of foot-and-mouth disease, bringing the number of infected farms in that country to five.

France last week reported its second case of the disease. Argentina has identified 55 cases, while Ireland has one case of the virus, which strikes cloven-hoofed animals.

Britain's Environment Agency, which approved the Cumbria site, said it investigated more than 180 areas to find acceptable places for such large-scale culling.

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