A crane loading chlorine tanks onto a ship in the Jordanian port of Aqaba dropped one of them on Monday, setting off a massive blast of toxic yellow smoke that reportedly killed 12 people and injured more than 250. AFPauthorities said a chemical storage container fell in transit due to a crane malfunction.
CCTV footage of the incident showed the container being lifted into the air, then suddenly fell onto a ship and exploded. A large cloud of bright yellow gas spreads across the ground. Dock workers are also seen scrambling to escape the toxic smoke.
“This afternoon at exactly 3:15 pm, 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. AFP†
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At least 10 people have been killed and more than 250 injured after a poisonous gas leak at the port of Aqaba in Jordan. pic.twitter.com/kjTDaPkelw
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Citing state media, the BBC reported that 199 of those injured were treated in hospitals for chemical exposure. Some were in critical condition.
After the incident, authorities advised residents of the city of Aqaba, 16 km north of the port, to stay indoors and close windows and doors. As a precaution, the southern beach of Aqaba was also evacuated. In addition, the Ministry of Civil Defense sent specialized teams to the port to fix and clean up the leak.
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Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh is also said to have flown to Aqaba. He instructed Interior Minister Mazen Faraya to oversee an investigation into the incident.
Separately, the deputy director of the port of Aqaba told AlMamlaka TV that an “iron rope” with the container “broke” while it was being loaded onto a ship. He said the container was filled with between 25 and 30 tons of chlorine and was being exported to Djibouti.
Chlorine is a chemical used in industry and household cleaning products. It is a yellow-green gas at normal temperature and pressure. 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. Breathing in high levels of the gas causes fluid to build up in the lungs – a life-threatening condition known as pulmonary edema.