Published : 2013-03-05 14:57
Updated : 2013-03-05 14:57
A breakdown of a ventilator at a chemical factory in southeastern South Korea caused the leakage of chlorine gas on Tuesday, injuring 11 employees, police and company officials said.
Around 1 liter of the toxic gas was leaked at around 8:50 a.m. at the Gumi Chemical factory located in the Gumi National Industrial Complex, some 200 kilometers southeast of Seoul, while workers there were trying to transfer the liquid gas from a tanker.
A 35-year-old employee was sent to a nearby hospital for difficulty breathing, with the injury unlikely to be life-threatening, according to the investigators. Ten other employees at a nearby plant were also hospitalized for similar symptoms.
Upon the accident, the company shut off valves to prevent further leakage of the toxic gas, while the authorities evacuated nearby areas that might be affected, they added.
"While our employees were trying to transfer the liquid gas from the truck into the factory via valves, a ventilator broke down and caused it to flow backward, causing the leakage," said Sohn Jong-man, the chief of Gumi Chemical.
"The breakdown took place abruptly. So we tentatively concluded that electrical faults were to blame for the breakdown."
While around 1 liter of liquid gas turned into 400 liters upon the leakage due to gasification, some 50 liters were discharged into the air and the rest were removed through the company's facilities, according to the companies.
There have been concerns that the gas can spread far and wide into the air, as exposure to the toxic chemicals in chlorine gas can cause serious damage to the eyes, nose, teeth and respiratory system, and even lead to death.
The Daegu Regional Environmental Office said no chlorine gas was detected in and around the factory following the accident.
The southern city of Gumi has seen a series of similar accidents in recent months. Up to 60 liters of liquid made up of hydrofluoric acid, nitric acid and acetic acid leaked at a wafer factory of LG Siltron in Gumi last week, with no casualties being reported. Last September, some 8 tons of hydrofluoric acid leaked from a factory run by chemical maker Hube Global, killing five workers and injuring 18 others. (Yonhap News)