At least 12 people died in Jordan on Monday and more than 250 others were injured after a container tipped over at the port of Aqaba in the south of the country, releasing toxic chlorine gas.
Aqaba, one of the most important ports on the Red Sea, is the only seaport in the Hashemite Kingdom through which most Jordanian imports and exports pass. Aqaba is also an important seaside resort.
“At 3:15 p.m. local time, a chlorine leak occurred in the port of Aqaba after a container of liquefied gas fell, killing 12 people and injuring 260 Jordanians and foreigners,” the government crisis team told a press with publication .
Footage released by state television Al-Mamlaka shows a crane carrying the container before dropping it over the boat. After the shock, a thick yellow cloud immediately escapes as people try to flee.
According to the former director of the company responsible for managing the port, who was interviewed on television, about twenty containers of LPG “with a high chlorine content” were to be loaded on the boat. He added that the gas was heavy and “the clouds didn’t move easily.”
According to Al-Mamlaka, Jordanian Prime Minister Hir Al-Khasawneh and his Interior Minister Mazen Al-Faraya visited the site.
Aqaba Region Port Authority deputy chief Haj Hassan told al-Mamlaka that “a rope moving a container containing a toxic substance broke, resulting in the fall and escape of the toxic substance.”
Located on the gulf of the same name, Aqaba is a seaside resort town and lies on the Israeli border less than fifteen kilometers north of Saudi Arabia, while Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula is about six miles away on the other side of the gulf.
The injured were transferred to two public hospitals, a private hospital and a fourth field hospital, authorities said while the beach was being evacuated.
Aqaba Health Director Jamal Obeidat said “hospitals in Aqaba were overwhelmed and could not accommodate other injured people,” some of whom are in critical condition.
He urged residents of Aqaba to “stay at home and close the windows as a precaution” and specified that “the substance present in the atmosphere is very dangerous”.
In addition, government spokesman Fayçal al-Choubou announced on television that an investigative commission would be formed under the direction of the interior minister.
At the same time, he called on the population not to approach the scene of the accident and announced that medical reinforcements and equipment would be sent to the region.
Israel, which was linked to Jordan by a 1994 peace treaty, offered its condolences to the kingdom and its assistance, a State Department spokesman told AFP.
A spokeswoman for Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry said the crash in Aqaba would not affect Israel and the resort town of Eilat, less than three miles away, but Saudi Arabia due to the direction of the wind.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz expressed his “sincere condolences” to the Kingdom of Jordan and “promised that his ministry’s services will provide any form of assistance” requested by the Jordanians.
Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, also offered his condolences.