More than 10,000 people who worked in the toxic chaos of New York's Ground Zero after 9/11 could receive compensation totalling 657 million dollars for health problems under a settlement reached.
Thousands of plaintiffs, mostly firefighters, police and construction workers, have sued the city for what they say are health problems connected to work in the debris of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the September 11, 2001 attacks.
On Thursday, the head of an insurance company that was funded with federal dollars to insure New York City against claims related to the attacks said a potential deal had been reached.
"We have reached a settlement that is fair under difficult and complicated circumstances," said Christine LaSala, president of WTC Captive, which holds one billion dollars in federal funds.
"This agreement enables workers and volunteers claiming injury from the WTC site operations to obtain compensation commensurate with the nature of their injuries and the strength of their claims, while offering added protection against possible future illness."
Ninety five percent of plaintiffs must sign off on the preliminary deal for 575 million dollars to be paid out.
The sum could rise to 657 million dollars "under certain conditions, leaving residual funds to insure and defend the city and its contractors against any new claims," the insurance company said.
"The resolution of the World Trade Center litigation will allow the first responders and workers to be compensated for injuries suffered following their work at Ground Zero," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"This settlement is a fair and reasonable resolution to a complex set of circumstances."
Plaintiffs, who must submit sworn evidence of their injuries or illness, have 90 days to review the settlement and decide whether to accept.