Toxic gas leak kills 13 in Jordan

Article by Amanda Jasi

A LEAK of toxic chlorine gas at Aqaba’s Red Sea port has killed 13 people and injured more than 300 others, Jordan state media reports.  

Two critically injured people were transferred to Amman by air ambulance.

The incident occurred yesterday when a crane malfunctioned and dropped a container of highly pressurised chlorine gas. According to BBC News, the tanker contained as much as 30 t of gas. Press reports say it was being loaded onto a ship for transport to Djibouti. State media posted a video showing a plume of yellow gas erupting after the tank was dropped.

Among those injured were police, other emergency responders. The Washington Post reports that “some 200” people were hospitalised. Jordan’s National Center for Security and Crisis Management ensured oxygen supplies at hospitals in the wake of the release. As of the last update on the matter from Jordan News Agency, 139 people were still hospitalised.

Following the leak, authorities advised local residents to shut their windows and stay indoors, and the surrounding 5 km area was cordoned to help prevent further injuries. The area around the incident was also sterilised and disinfected following the leak, says state media.

Chlorine is used in industry, such as for sterilising drinking water, and is found in some household items including bleach and other cleaning products.

It can be pressurised and cooled for transport and storage but can be in the form of a toxic gas. The pungent, yellow-green gas can cause amongst other symptoms fluid build-up in the lungs; difficulty breathing and shortness of breath; a burning sensation in the nose, throat, and eyes, and burning pain, redness, and blisters on the skin.

Since yesterday’s incident, state media has reported that Jordan’s Prime Minister Bisher Al Khasawneh has announced the concentration of chlorine gas in the atmosphere has returned to normal levels, and no longer poses a risk. The Prime Minister also stated that the port and navigation are operating normally again.

Cordons and other safety and security precautions have now been removed.

Jordan’s Minister of Interior has been charged with leading an investigation into the cause of the incident and ensuring it does not occur again.

IChemE’s Loss Prevention Bulletin published a review of  a similar incident in 2001. In that case, a cylinder containing 12 t of toxic chemical was dropped by a failing crane, though there were no injuries, chemical release, or structural damage to the cylinder.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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