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What Caused Toxic Gas Leak in Jordan?

A toxic gas leak in Jordan has reportedly killed around 13 people and injured 251. Videos of the accident have been going viral on social media, showing a container falling and exploding at Aqaba port, releasing a yellow gas. The thick cloud began to spread, driving dock workers to run for their lives. Concerns regarding chemical exposure included the nearest residential sector, which was 16 km away and a tourist beach 7 km away. Authorities sealed off the leakage area and warned the citizens to remain indoors and shut the windows. They also sent specialized teams to fight the gas and planes to evacuate people. Reportedly, most of the wounded were being treated in the hospitals, but a few were still left out.

Faulty Crane Causes Toxic Gas Leak in Jordan

The toxic gas leak in Jordan occurred after a crane dropped a storage tank containing 25 tonnes of chlorine gas while loading. Government officials said that the container, carrying a “toxic substance”, was being exported to Djibouti, East Africa. While transporting the container from dock to ship, the crane’s cable broke due to which it fell, and the gas escaped. The ship was waiting to be loaded with 20 containers of liquified gas containing strong chlorine. Operators warned that the clouds were heavy and would not move easily as the gas concentrates in one area and is affected by the wind.

How Dangerous is Chlorine?

Many of the injured from the toxic gas leak in Jordan were in critical condition due to chemical exposure. Chlorine is a chemical element largely used in industrial operations and in cleaning products. Its colour is greenish-yellow at standard pressure and temperature. However, it is usually cooled and pressurized for storage and shipment. Inhaling or swallowing chlorine can be lethal as it reacts with the water to become hydrochloric acid, damaging cells in the body. Moreover, inhaling high chlorine levels causes fluid build-up inside the lungs, making breathing difficult. It is a life-threatening condition called pulmonary oedema.

Accidents with Hazardous Materials

Chlorine is a common element in several workplaces. Industries which use it the most include Petroleum, Paper, Leather, Wood, and Printing Chemicals. Unfortunately, these industries are also responsible for most workplace hazards involving chlorine. The toxic gas leak in Jordan was also considered a human error as equipment inspectors failed to report anything wrong with the crane. The prime minister formed an investigation team led by the interior minister to determine what happened.

Aqaba port is located at the north end of the Red Sea, serving as the major sea route for Iraq’s trade. According to the reports, the chemical explosion did not affect maritime traffic. There were concerns regarding contamination at Aqaba’s grain silos, so they were stopped for inspection. The officials confirmed that no vessel was loading/unloading grain cargos at the time of the accident.

Two years ago, a hazardous material exploded in a port warehouse in Beirut, Lebanon as well. Reportedly, it was stored ammonium nitrate that caused the explosion. It is still unclear who or what ignited the material held in the warehouse for years.

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