​Thousands evacuated after ammonia leak in Ho Chi Minh City

The leak began at an ammonia filling station in Binh Chanh District

Firefighters spray water in the air to dissolve the leaked ammonia. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Police cleared thousands of residents in Ho Chi Minh City’s Binh Chanh District on Tuesday after an ammonia leak sent four people to hospital.

The leak began at around 9:00 am on Tuesday when a tanker truck was refilling at an ammonia filling station in Binh Chanh, according Lieutenant Colonel Pham Trung Thang, deputy chief of the district’s fire department.

Four people, including the truck’s driver and two workers at the filling station, fainted after inhaling the toxic gas and were rushed to hospital.

Dozens of firefighters and a specialized chemical treatment squad were dispatched to the scene to respond to the emergency.

“[By the time responders arrived] ammonia had spread to a large area around the filling station,” Thang said.

“We worked with the local administration to evacuate 200 local households and over 1,000 students and teachers from a nearby school away from the danger zone.”

Schoolchildren are evacuated to a nearby public zone on a police car. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Schoolchildren are evacuated to a nearby public zone on a police car. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Ammonia is a colorless and highly irritating gas with a sharp odor. Exposure to high concentrations of it can cause immediate burning of the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract and can result in blindness, lung damage or death, according to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Inhalation of lower concentrations is likely to cause coughing and nose and throat irritation, according to the same source.

Tuesday’s ammonia leak was a result of the tanker-truck driver’s carelessness while connecting his truck’s tanks to the underground tanks of the filling station, causing the valve to burst open while refilling, Thang said.

Those injured in the incident have made a full recovery and all those evacuated had resumed their daily activities by noon the same day, according to local authorities.

Firefighters spray water in the air to dissolve the leaked ammonia. Clip: Tuoi Tre

The filling station itself spans 2,800 square meters in Binh Chanh’s An Phu Tay Commune, extracting ammonia from large tanks into smaller canisters to sell to local businesses.

The station is legally registered to operate, and meets fire safety standards according to its’ latest inspections.

Ammonia is mainly used as a refrigerant gas, to purify water supplies, and in the manufacture of plastics, explosives, fabrics, pesticides, dyes and other chemicals.

It is also found in many household and industrial-strength cleaning solutions.

Firefighters spray water in the air to dissolve the leaked ammonia. Photo: Tuoi Tre
The site of the ammonia leak. Photo: Tuoi Tre

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