At least 10 people have died and 251 have been injured in a chlorine gas leak from a storage tank at Jordan’s Aqaba port, officials and state media report, 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.
Video carried by state-run media outlets showed a crane hoisting a large tanker from a truck and then dropping it on the deck of a ship, causing an explosion of yellow smoke and sending dock workers racing away.
Chlorine is a widely used disinfectant and water purification agent. 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 were 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.