Quick reaction averts disaster

2013-04-27 00:00

DURBAN’S harbour was placed on high alert for several hours yesterday when an ammonia leak sent 14 people to hospital.

As city roads gridlocked, emergency staff moved to secure the area closest to the harbour entrance.

Trucks with special chemical containment facilities took over the scene and workers were rushed out of the danger zone.

One person suffered chemical burns while 13 others were also hospitalised for inhaling ammonia gas.

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) said in a statement it had been notified of an ammonia leak detected at the fresh produce terminal (FPT) storeroom. Transnet said emergency services responded and by late yesterday afternoon were still on site.

It said the ammonia leak had been “plugged” by eThekwini Municipality’s chemical incident unit, which reported the situation was under control.

“Thirteen FPT employees have suffered exposure and minor respiratory irritations, while one other has suffered chemical burns.

“No TNPA employees have been affected by the incident,” said the statement.

East Coast Radio reported road closures following the leak.

Margaret Mncadi Avenue (formerly Victoria Embankment) was bumper to bumper with traffic.

Between 2 pm and 3 pm the area around the leak was secured and traffic started returning to normal.

Attempts to get comment from Durban Fire and the eThekwini disaster management were unsuccessful last night.

Ammonia takes many forms and can be deadly. Ten days ago ammonia nitrate was suspected in a massive explosion at a fertiliser factory in the small Texan town of West. Fifteen people died, many more were injured and buildings were flattened in the blast.

• thamsanqam@witness.co.za

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