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Victims of Formosa spill in Vietnam seek compensation June 11,2019   |  Source: AFP

Lawyers in Taiwan launched a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the industrial conglomerate Formosa on Tuesday, on behalf of thousands of Vietnamese whose livelihoods were ruined by a toxic spill that devastated fish stocks.

Formosa's huge steel plant in Ha Tinh province was fined $500 million by the Vietnamese government in 2016 for pouring chemicals -- including cyanide -- into the ocean, sparking one of the country's worst environmental catastrophes.

The spill devastated fishing communities along swathes of coastline and prompted months of rare protests in the one-party state.

Dozens of local and Vietnamese activists rallied outside the district court in Taipei this week as lawyers lodged their claim.

"I saw with my own eyes dead fish floating in the sea. There are no fish in the ocean to catch now... we are forced to leave our home to go to other countries to find work," said Nguyen, a former fisherman who asked to be identified only by his family name.

"I hope Taiwan's independent judiciary will seriously handle the case to return justice to the victims and I hope Formosa will give Vietnam back a clean ocean so the fish will return," he added.

Some 7,875 people from the affected areas have joined the group lawsuit initially seeking at least Tw$140

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