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Gafsa Beach update: New fears of phosphate poisonings in Tunisia's mystery lake

There is an update in the story of the mysterious so-called Gafsa Beach that sprung up in a desert in Tunisia this summer. Yahoo News reported Sunday that some authorities fear that beach swimmers could be in danger of phosphate poisoning.

Tunisia is the world's fifth largest supplier of phosphate. Yahoo News reports, "Hatef Ouigi, from the Regional Directorate of Civil Protection in Gafsa, said the (phosphate or other possible chemical danger) warning was issued as a preventive measure. His team need to carry out checks on the quality of water and depending on the results, take precautions to safeguard the public."

As previously reported, Gafsa Beach, as it has been dubbed, has become Tunisia’s newest tourist attraction, The New Zealand Herald reported Saturday. It was first discovered three weeks ago and is drawing visitors from all over the region and the world.

While some people are a little afraid of the mysterious pond, others are jumping in and cooling off to get a relief from the 105 degree desert heat.

The locals quickly dubbed the lake as Lac de Gafsa or “Gafsa Beach.” Locals and visitors alike are ignoring warnings that the water could be contaminated with carcinogenic chemicals, riddled with disease or radioactive. At times, the water has turned a murky green, but that has not deterred visitors.

"Some say it is a miracle, while others are calling it a curse," Lakhdar Souid, who is Tunisian journalist, told France 24 television.

Gafsa Beach is about 15 miles from the Tunisian city of Gafsa.

"In the first few days, the water was crystal clear; a turquoise blue. Now it's green and full of algae, which means it's not being replenished," Mehdi Bilel told reporters. He was among the first to visit the new lake.

"After several long hours on the road without a break, I honestly thought I was hallucinating," he added. "I don't know much about science and thought it was magic, something supernatural."

The Gasfa area is known for its mining industry since phosphate was discovered in the area in 1886. Tunisia is currently the fifth largest exporter of phosphate.

Sheep herders are thought to have first discovered Gasfa Beach about three weeks ago. It is estimated to be about 60 feet deep and covers about 2.5 acres. Geologists have speculated that the lake may have sprung up as the result of seismic activity.

Other experts have said that the area simply collected rain water, the Guardian reports.

"News of the lake's appearance has spread like wildfire and now hundreds of people, eager to escape a heatwave, go there to swim," journalist Souid wrote in the Tunisia Daily newspaper.

"This region is overflowing with large deposits of phosphate, which can leave behind radioactive residue so there is a real risk that the water is contaminated and carcinogenic. There's no security of any kind.

"The site is certainly stunning and there are many large rocks perfect for diving, but it has become infested with green algae, meaning the water is stagnant and conducive to diseases."

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