RIGA, June 21 (Xinhua) -- Hazardous waste such as spent batteries, spray cans and electrical cables have been found at an illegal dump site that burned down in a major fire in Latvia's seaside resort city of Jurmala last weekend, Latvian environment minister Kaspars Gerhards said at a news conference on Wednesday.
The minister said that some 40 percent of the 23,000 tons of waste that had been stored at the dump site had burned in the fire.
"The discussion as to whether this was waste or recyclable products is over," Gerhards said, stressing that now it was necessary to establish how all this trash could have ended up in the "middle of Latvia."
Work is now underway to clean up the area destroyed by the blaze. If Prima M Company, which manages the dump site, proves unable to clean the territory, the State Environmental Service will take over and clean it, Gerhards promised.
The minister also said that those responsible for the presence of hazardous waste at the Jurmala dump site should be called to account.
Inga Kolegova, the head of the Latvian State Environmental Service, told reporters that the waste had been brought to Jurmala from abroad and that many of the items found at the dump site bore Swedish labels.
The environmental authority plans to take soil samples to analyze the fire's impact on the environment, including groundwater.
Officials said the long-term impact on the environment and human health was hard to gauge.
Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis said on public radio on Wednesday that he had ordered Gerhards to provide by next Monday full information on the fire at the illegal dump site and measures taken to deal with its aftermath.
The Prime Minster noted that information at his disposal caused suspicions of a "dirty business", as the presence of hazardous waste was an indication that the dump site was operated illegally. Kucinskis also pledged "no excuses or mercy" for those responsible for the disaster.
The blaze in the area of Sloka started last Sunday afternoon after plastic garbage caught fire at the dump site.
It took more than 12 hours for firefighters to bring the fire under control, which they managed to do by around 5 a.m. local time (0200 GMT) on Monday. The flames had spread to a 1.2-hectare area, which, apart from heaps of plastic garbage, also included a hangar, the State Fire and Rescue Service informed.