LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peru’s government has declared an emergency across a broad jungle region because of mercury contamination caused by wildcat gold mining.

The 60-day decree issued Monday affects 11 districts in the Madre de Dios region where studies have found high levels of the toxic element in people, rivers and fish.

Deputy Health Minister Percy Minaya says as many as 50,000 people could be exposed to the high levels of mercury.

The government says it will send hospital boats to help treat people living in the affected area, where the government has been trying to stamp out the illegal mining along rivers.

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