Mystery as dead birds rain down

More than 10 000 birds died mysteriously in eastern China’s Jiangsu province, dropping like rain from the sky, state media reported on Thursday.

Farmers and other witnesses in Sangongdian village in Taizhou city saw flocks of bramble finch suddenly fall from the sky on Tuesday, the Beijing Youth Daily said.

Most of the birds were dead when they hit the ground and some were injured, it said. The birds look like sparrows and are small in size.

Officials from the local centre for disease prevention and control rushed to the scene. Samples from the birds were taken to a laboratory in nearby Nanjing city for testing to determine the cause of death.

Experts from the Jiangsu province agriculture department said that because the birds died while in flight, the cause of death may have been contamination in their food, water or environment.

They did not immediately say whether there was any connection with the spreading bird flu outbreak in Asia. China said on Thursday 56 417 birds in the country had been infected with bird flu and 49 236 of them had died.

China, the world’s second-largest producer and fifth-largest exporter of chicken meat, has reported five confirmed cases and 18 suspected cases of the avian flu.

The flu has been reported in nine other Asian countries and blamed for 17 deaths, in Vietnam and Thailand. — Sapa-AFP

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