The leak came after a tank filled with 25 tons of chlorine gas being exported to Djibouti fell while being transported, officials said. At least 12 people died and 251 were injured in a chlorine gas leak from a storage tank at Jordan’s Aqaba port, officials and state media reported on Monday.
A crane loading chlorine tanks onto a ship in Jordan’s port of Aqaba on Monday dropped one of them, causing a huge explosion of toxic yellow smoke that reportedly killed 12 people and injured more than 251. According to the news agency, authorities have said that a chemical storage container fell while being transported as a result of a crane malfunction.
A video posted on state television’s Twitter page showed a storage tank falling from a winch and slamming into the deck of a ship, followed by yellow-colored gas rising into the air as people ran away.
“At exactly 15:15 this afternoon, a chlorine gas leak occurred in the port of Aqaba as a result of the fall and explosion of a tank containing this substance,” the government’s crisis cell said in a statement, as per a news agency.
Health ministry officials said they expected only a handful of people to remain hospitalized by Tuesday. Chlorine is a widely used disinfectant and water purification agent, but if inhaled, the gas turns to hydrochloric acid, which can lead to internal burning and drowning through a reactionary release of water in the lungs. Al-Khasawneh also formed an investigation team into the incident chaired by the interior minister, state television cited the information minister as saying.
Jordan’s Aqaba grain silos halted work to allow inspection of its grains and for any signs of contamination, but maritime traffic at Aqaba ports continues, officials said. Citing state media, the news agency reported that 199 of the injured were being treated at hospitals for chemical exposure. Some were in critical condition. Following the incident, the authorities advised residents of Aqaba city, which is 16km north of the port, to stay inside and close windows and doors. As a precaution, Aqaba’s southern beach was also evacuated. Moreover, the Civil Defence Department sent specialist teams to the port to deal with the leak and clean-up operation.
Aqaba is on the northern tip of the Red Sea, next to the Israeli city of Eilat, which is just across the border. Both are popular beach and diving destinations. Eilat’s emergency services said in a statement that there was no impact on the city but that they were following the situation closely. Aqaba port at the north end of the Red Sea has long been a major transit route for Iraqi imports and exports. Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh arrived at Aqaba and headed to a hospital where some of the injured were being treated, state TV reported.
Chlorine is a chemical used in industry and in household cleaning products. It is a yellow-green gas at normal temperature and pressure. When chlorine is inhaled, swallowed, or comes into contact with skin, it reacts with water to produce acids that damage cells in the body. Inhaling high levels of the gas causes fluid to build up in the lungs – a life-threatening condition known as pulmonary oedema.