Ammonia leaked from fertiliser factory in Bangladesh's southeastern city Chittagong; those in affected areas report breathing problems
About 250, including children, have fallen sick and hundreds of residents have been evacuated from their homes after a toxic gas leak from a fertiliser unit in Bangladesh's port city of Chittagong, police and health officials said today.
Di-ammonium phosphate (DPA) leaked from the DAP Fertiliser Company Limited on the bank of Karnaphuli river where a 500-tonne ammonia tank exploded late on Monday night, news agency, AFP, said. The firefighters battled till late morning to plug the leakage.
Chittagong's deputy commissioner Mesbahuddin Ahmed said the situation was under control as the source of the leakage has been plugged.
'Loudspeakers used to speed up evacuation'
Ahmed said 56 were admitted to Chittagong Medical College Hospital after the gas leak. None is in a critical condition.
"Eight have been discharged. Forty-eight people are still in the hospital today but they are out of danger," he told AFP.
"About 150 were given first-aid locally," he added.
"We used loudspeakers to urge people to evacuate the area. Hundreds did leave, but they came back after the situation improved," he said.
Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC), which runs the unit, formed a 10-member committee to investigate the incident, while the district administration has formed a three-member panel to probe the leak.
After the 'explosion', the gas quickly spread across large parts of the city. Strong winds blew the gas across a 10-kilometre area and reports suggested that people felt breathing problems at the southern city's international airport.
"The gas spread from the unit causing breathing problems to the people across several kilometres," officer-in-charge of the nearby police station said.
"Several people reported to doctors just because of panic," the city's civil surgeon Azizur Rahman Siddique said.
At the time of the incident, the amount of ammonia in the air was recorded at 600ppm (parts per million) whilst workers at the factory can tolerate conditions with ammonia gas up to 25ppm, the environment department said. According to experts, exposure to ammonia can cause slackening, vomiting and breathing problems.