More than 10 dead, 260 injured after chlorine tank ruptures at Aqaba Port

aqaba gas ship
A general view shows the tank (left) that fell while being transported, causing a toxic gas leak in Jordan’s Aqaba Port on June 27, 2022. (Photos: AFP)
AMMAN — A gas leak from a ruptured chlorine tank at the Aqaba Port killed 13 and injured some 260 others on Monday.

Eight Jordanians and four foreigners have died. Some 45 emergency responders were injured.اضافة اعلان

At 5:15pm, the tank containing liquefied chlorine gas ruptured when the steel cable carrying it onto a ship broke, dropping the tank, according to Hamzeh Al-Hajj Hassan, the deputy chief commissioner of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority.

At a press conference held late on Monday, Minister of State for Media Affairs Faisal Shboul said that the site was being sterilized and underlined that the situation in Aqaba is “under control, and there is no risk to the city, its people and its visitors any more”.

A partial view shows the tank that fell while being transported, causing a toxic gas leak in Jordan’s Aqaba New Port on June 27, 2022. Footage on Al-Mamlaka TV showed a large cylinder plunging from a crane on a moored vessel, causing a violent explosion of yellow gas.

He added that a security perimeter of 5km around the port had been established and that Aqaba’s southern beach was evacuated following the incident.

Public Security Directorate (PSD) spokesperson Amer Al-Sartawi said that specialized teams from the Civil Defense Department responded to the incident at the Aqaba New Port, roughly 26km from the city of Aqaba. PSD had earlier set up a 500m cordon around the area.

In a telephone interview, Shboul, who is also the government spokesperson, told Jordan News there was no danger to residential areas as they are “far enough away”. He added that a southerly wind would not carry the gas closer to the city’s residential areas.

Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh announced an investigation into the incident headed by Interior Minister Mazen Al-Faraya, according to Shboul.

HRH Crown Prince Hussein, at the National Center for Security and Crisis Management (NCSCM), was following up on the evacuation and rescue operations.

The Crown Prince offered his condolences to the families of the victims who died in the accident, and wished a speedy recovery for the injured.

Those injured were evacuated to several nearby hospitals, according to PSD. They were reported as being in bad to critical condition, according to Aqaba Health Director Jamal Obeidat, who added that “the number of deaths increases by the minute.”

He said that the field hospital in Aqaba can receive new patients, but that the city’s hospitals are at capacity.

A screengrab from a video showing toxic gas expanding from a ruptured tank at Aqaba New Port on June 27, 2022. (Photo: Twitter)

More health centers will be made available as required, the director said.

A total of 123 people were hospitalized, including five emergency responders.

The NCSCM, in coordination with the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army, deployed four air evacuation planes to support, according to the Jordan News Agency, Petra.

The NCSCM urged residents in Aqaba not to gather in front of hospitals to allow ambulance and rescue teams to move freely.

Aqaba Governor Mohammad Rafaiah said the situation was “under control”.

The former director-general of the Aqaba Company for Ports Operation and Management, Muhammad Al-Mubaidin, was quoted by Al-Mamlaka that based on the information available to him, a ship in berth no. 2 in the Aqaba New Port was loading approximately 20 tanks of liquefied chlorine gas.

Chlorine gas, which expands about 457 times from liquid to gas, can be recognized by its pungent, irritating odor, similar to that of bleach, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If exposed to dangerous concentrations of chlorine gas, symptoms may include blurred vision, burning pain, redness, and blisters on the skin.

If high concentrations of chlorine gas are inhaled, one may feel a burning sensation in the nose, throat, and eyes, alongside coughing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing. The effects may be delayed if the gas is inhaled in low concentrations.

A port worker, on condition of anonymity due to his role, told Jordan News that equipment at the Aqaba Company for Ports Operation and Management is allegedly poorly maintained and is used past its “operational life”, including crane cables.

“We are required to load five to 10 tonnes in a shift,” the port worker alleged, claiming that “workplace safety is ineffective at the company”, and that not all the workers are qualified.

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