28 JUN 2022
A toxic cloud of chlorine gas was released in a loading accident Monday afternoon in the Jordanian port of Aqaba on the Red Sea. State media is reporting that 12 people died and at least 260 others were injured when the gas cylinder ruptured releasing the toxic chemical onto the ship and surrounding dock area.
State media released the close circuit TV images of a normal day of operations in the port. A vessel was alongside loading about 20 tanks of liquified chlorine gas, which is used as a disinfectant and water purification agent. The canisters were being exported to Djibouti.
Around 5:00 pm local time a truck can be seen alongside the ship with a shoreside crane lifting the canister. The truck drives away and another is preparing to come alongside when the tank suspended by the crane over the ship suddenly drops to the deck below. The toxic gas is pressurized and cooled for shipment and when the tank is punctured a cloud envelops the local area. People are seen running from the advancing cloud.
Initial reports indicate that the crane lifting the tank malfunctioned. Some reports suggest that one of the main wires on the crane broke causing the release of the tank. The tank reportedly held 25 to 30 tons of chlorine.
World Health Organization officials explained that chlorine is heavier than air so it hangs close to the ground and does not easily dissipate. Further, the gas does not explode but the cloud was driven by the release of the pressure in the tank. It is an irritant to the skin but can cause severe damage when inhaled.
Civil Defense officials cordoned off areas of the port while broadcasting warnings to residents to remain indoors and close their windows as a precaution. They pointed out that the port area is not close to residences, however, with the wind possibly pushing the gas to the south they ordered a popular tourist beach near the port evacuated.
Health officials reported that the hospitals in Aqaba were all full and that they were using emergency field hospitals. State media is reporting as many as 199 people were taken to the hospitals and there were reports that some would be airlifted to the capital or other major facilities. Jordan’s Prime Minister traveled to the area and announced that an investigation would begin tomorrow headed by the Minister of the Interior.
Operations were initially suspended across the port but late today port officials said operations were continuing. They however were ordering ships to remain away from the area of the accident.