The United Nations says the December 26 Indian Ocean tsunami dumped tons of hazardous waste on the shores of Somalia.

A spokesman for the U.N. Environment Program says containers filled with nuclear, chemical and medical waste broke apart when they washed ashore, and have been spread by the weather.

The spokesman says there have been reports from northern Somalia of illnesses consistent with radiation sickness, including respiratory infections, mouth ulcers, abdominal hemorrhages and unusual skin diseases.

The United Nations says foreign companies, many from Europe, began dumping toxic waste on Somalia's shore in the 1980s, but the practice accelerated after the 1991 overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. The tsunami is believed to have dislodged the hazardous materials.

Some information provided by AFP and Reuters.