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Virtual Earth map of Kantubek, Renaissance Island, Uzbekistan

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Located in the central Aral Sea (45°0′N 59°10′E), Vozrozhdeniya Island was one of the main laboratories and testing sites for the Soviet Union government’s Microbiological Warfare Group. In 1948, a top-secret Soviet bioweapons laboratory was established here. It was here, according to just released documents, that the anthrax spores and the plague bacilli were developed and stored. The main town on the island was Kantubek, which lies in ruins today, but once had approximately 1,500 inhabitants.

The laboratory staff members abandoned the island in late 1991. Many of the containers holding the spores were not properly stored or destroyed, and over the last decade many of the containers have developed leaks. As the Aral Sea continues to recede, the area will eventually connect further with the surrounding land. Many scientists fear that reptiles, including snakes, will move to the surrounding land and eventually carry these deadly biological agents out.

The Pentagon sent a team of 113 people to the island to neutralize between 100 and 200 tons of anthrax in 2002.



 

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