Two ‘WTF’ Hazmat Stories From Abroad

The only good thing about a hazmat incident is that others can learn from it. Learning the cause helps prevent similar incidents. And learning how it was mitigated helps hazmat teams contain the problem more safely and effectively.

Some hazmat incidents provide more lessons than others. Some are so far out of the realm of probability they leave you shaking your head and asking, “what the (insert family-friendly ‘F’ word: fudge, frig, flock, fiddlesticks)?” Here are two such WTF incidents.

The most disturbing of the two comes out of Jordan where a container of liquified chlorine gas ruptured at port Aqaba on the Red Sea when a crane cable snapped while loading the container on a ship — sending the chlorine tank crashing to the dock. At least 13 people died and more than 250 were injured.

Also Read: VIDEO VAULT | One of America’s largest chlorine gas leak hits Las Vegas valley

Most disturbing is the scene from the incident captured on security video of workers running for their lives to escape the rapidly spreading yellow cloud.

France24 reports that chlorine escape could have also threatened residents and tourists.

The nearby beach, which is popular with tourists, was evacuated after the incident, as were adjacent residential areas; residents were later told they could return to their homes. Aqaba tourist department official Nidal al-Majali said the lack of wind helped to prevent the gas cloud spreading outside the port, France24 reported.

Also Read: Study Looks to Predict Chemical, Airborne Threat Movement

Later in the video, you’ll see firefighters and other officials on scene protected only by filtration masks. Of course, it could be that that segment was shot when the area was safe — we don’t know. It does reinforce the importance of making sure the right level of PPE is used for the emergency.

The second incident comes out of Columbia where heavy rains churned up potentially toxic foam that crept through towns like something out of a bad sci-fi movie.

KFOR reports that as many as 30 homes in Soacha, Columbia were flooded by the foul-smelling foam. Authorities there say the rain mixed with garbage and human waste in the river to kick up the blankets of foam. The village has no sewage system and poor waste disposal.

The big concern here is for the long-term health of the residents and the first responders called out to tackle this hazmat incident.

Reuters reported that firefighters were dispatched to spray foam with water in an attempt to knock it down. Video from Reuters shows firefighters in only nonstructural bunker gear spraying down large amounts of foam. Soacha’s municipality Risk Management Director Dayan Caucali, said they are to conduct lab analysis to determine whether chemicals, waste or other substances caused the foam.

And this is not the first time a city in Columbia has been overrun by potentially toxic foam. Just this past April, Mosquerqa had a similar foam invasion from a nearby river.

The Australian Broadcasting Company reported that Mosquera’s foam problem was one they’ve dealt with for years. And, the sources are believed to be a combination of industrial waste and household cleaners.

One challenge facing the Columbian firefighters and hazmat responders will be a lack of adequate PPE, equipment and training.

These WTF incidents hopefully never make their way into regular training programs for hazmat teams. But they do offer a chance to consider how to handle the wildly unexpected incidents and those for which the team may be woefully ill-equipped to tackle.

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