A leak of toxic chlorine gas in Jordan, at the Red Sea port of Aqaba has killed 13 people and injured more than 260, state media report. Authorities said a chemical storage container fell while being transported as a result of a crane malfunction.
CCTV footage showed the container rising into the air and then suddenly falling onto a ship and exploding. A large cloud of bright yellow gas is seen spreading across the ground, causing people to run for safety. State media said late Monday that 123 of the injured were still being treated at local hospitals for chemical exposure. Some were reportedly in critical condition.
Video taken from the South China morning post youtube channel
Chlorine is a chemical used in industry and in household cleaning products. It is a greenish-yellow gas at normal temperature and pressure, but is usually pressurized and cooled for storage and shipment.
When chlorine is inhaled, ingested, or comes into contact with the skin, it reacts with water to produce acids that damage cells in the body. Inhaling high levels of chlorine causes fluid to build up in the lungs, a life-threatening condition known as pulmonary edema.
Residents of the city of Aqaba, which is 16 kilometers (10 miles) north of the port, were advised to stay inside and close their windows and doors after the leak, which occurred at 15:15 (12:15 p.m. GMT) on Monday.
Aqaba’s South Beach, which is just 7km away and a popular tourist destination, was also evacuated as a precaution, the AFP news agency reported.
After several hours, the Minister of State for Media Affairs, Faisal Shboul, declared that there was no longer any risk to the city and its residents.
The Civil Defense Secretariat sent teams of specialists to the port to deal with the leak and the clean-up operation.
Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh flew to Aqaba and visited a hospital that was treating some of the wounded.
He ordered Interior Minister Mazen Faraya to oversee a transparent investigation into the “unfortunate” tragedy and to guarantee “all resources to ensure the full safety of port workers and all necessary precautions in relation to hazardous materials.”
The deputy director of the port of Aqaba told AlMamlaka TV that an “iron rope” carrying the container “broke” while it was being loaded onto a ship.
The container was filled with between 25 and 30 tons of chlorine and was being exported to Djibouti.