The breakage of the metal cable on a crane has caused one of the largest disasters recorded in the Jordanian port of Aqaba, where at least 12 people have died and another 250 presented symptoms of suffocation after a container fell onto the deck of a ship loaded with more than 25 tons of chlorine gas. The leak of this toxic gas caused a large explosion on Monday afternoon, which was recorded by the security cameras of the naval complex.
The authorities ordered home confinement and the closing of windows in neighborhoods of the city of Aqaba (more than 180,000 inhabitants), located north of the port, as well as in the nearby hotels on the Red Sea beaches, with a large influx of tourists. The state of alert decreed by the Civil Defense authorities was lifted during the early hours of Monday to Tuesday.
Images of the incident, broadcast by Jordanian state television and spread through social networks, showed the moment of impact of the container on the hull of the ship and the immediate expansion of a yellow cloud, while groups of workers ran along the docks to try to save themselves. The ship was destined for the African country of Djibouti.
The Jordanian Ministry of Health was confident that most of those intoxicated would be discharged this Tuesday, although some of them are still in critical condition, Reuters reports. Inhalation or skin contact with hydrochloric acid, produced by the spread of chlorine gas in the atmosphere, which is transported and stored under refrigeration and constant pressure, poses a serious hazard. On contact with air, it transforms into acid, which can cause serious injuries, particularly pulmonary edema.
Activity in the strategic silos of Aqaba, the gateway for grain shipments destined for countries such as Syria or Iraq, was stopped after the accident to inspect the stored grain, in case it had been contaminated by the gas explosion. The Jordanian Prime Minister, Bisher al Khasawneh, has ordered an investigation into the causes of the incident after visiting the injured in hospitals and touring the docks that were affected.
A person in charge of the port of Aqaba quoted by the BBC confirmed that the incident had been caused by the breakage of a steel cable of a crane that operated on the ship, which caused the container it was transporting to hit the deck and trigger the tragedy.
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Jordan’s Civil Defense department has sent specialized teams on Tuesday to cut off the gas emission and clean up the toxic remains. “The leak occurred far from residential areas and The situation is now under control.” The governor of Aqaba province, Mohamed al Rafaia, told Jordanian state television.