(Reuters) – At least 10 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, as authorities called on residents to shut windows and stay indoors.
The leak came after a tank filled with 25 tonnes of chlorine gas being exported to Djibouti fell while being transported, officials said.
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-coloured gas rising into the air as people ran away.
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.
Jordan’s Aqaba grain silos halted work, but maritime traffic at Aqaba ports continues, state news agency Petra said, citing the director general of the Jordan Maritime Commission.
“We asked the ships that were near the area of the tank explosion to stay away from the area immediately,” Director General Muhammad Salman said.
Aqaba port at the north end of the Red Sea has long been a major transit route for Iraqi imports and exports.
Specialised teams are still dealing with the leak, the Civil Defence service said on its Facebook page. Evacuation planes were being sent into Aqaba, state television said.
Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh arrived at Aqaba and headed to a hospital where some of the injured were being treated, state TV reported.
Al-Khasawneh also formed an investigation team into the incident chaired by the interior minister, state TV cited the information minister as saying.
(Reporting by Moataz Mohamed, Omar Fahmy, Nayera Abdallah and Suleiman al-Khalidi; Editing by Deepa Babington, Mark Porter and Lisa Shumaker)