A man has died after trying to take a photo next to a towering hill of soap suds before disappearing into the quivering mass.
The man, who hasn’t been named, was found dead on Friday after he fell into the bubbles at the Valsequillo reservoir in Puebla, Mexico.
He had asked a coworker to take a photo next to the suds on Sunday.
Authorities said excess detergents from homes that drain into streams feeding the Valsequillo reservoir caused the soap bubbles to accumulate. The streams also carry all sorts of household waste and the toxic brew eventually finds its way into the Atoyac River.
Photos of the attempted rescue on Monday showed emergency personnel using fire hoses and a large fan in a failed attempt to penetrate the hill of suds that rose six metres over their heads.
After a full day of work, the local civil defence office said it was barely able to locate the man’s compact car. He was not in it, and officials began looking further downstream.
On Friday, people in the town of Tecamachalco, almost 50km from where the man fell in, alerted authorities about a body in the stream. Town officials issued a statement later in the day saying the body had been identified as the man who fell in on Sunday.
Town spokesman Cristian Medina said that because of the way currents flow, it is not unusual for authorities to find bodies, apparently of crime or accident victims, in the polluted stream during seasonal summer rains.
A local conservation group that combats pollution in the Atoyac river basin said this was not the first time that hills of detergent suds had formed on the waterway.
The Stand Up for The Atoyac group said a person walking his dog lost the animal in a hill of bubbles in 2015.
The Atoyac River basin also is plagued by huge discharges from textile plants and factories as well as open sewers and drains. The problem is so bad that at some points upstream, the river turns blue at times because of discharges of wastewater from blue jean factories.
Environmental groups say that the suds carry a disturbing range of toxic chemicals and waste.
In 2017 a government said the pollution represented a violation of residents’ human rights.
“The problem of toxic suds is not new,” Stand Up for The Atoyac said.
“The lack of government oversight, the utter lack of standards in detergents and the lack of technology and legal acumen on the part of local governments means that the problem is only getting worse.”
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