1 dead, 59 in hospital after ammonia leak in Navotas cold storage plant


Posted at Feb 03 2021 05:22 PM | Updated as of Feb 04 2021 10:44 AM

1 dead, 59 in hospital after ammonia leak in Navotas cold storage plant 1
Firemen cordon off and clear the area after an ammonia leak from the T.P. Marcelo Ice Plant and Cold Storage in Navotas on February 3, 2021. Contributed Photo

MANILA (3rd UPDATE) — One died while 60 residents from a bayside community in Navotas City were rushed to the hospital Wednesday afternoon following an ammonia leak in a cold storage facility owned by the family of Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco, authorities confirmed. 

The fatality was a 47-year-old male employee at T.P. Marcelo Ice Plant and Cold Storage, the source of the chemical leak. He was declared dead on arrival at a hospital, according to Vonne Villanueva, the incident ground commander. 

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Some 60 others, meanwhile, were sent to the Navotas City Hospital and Tondo General Hospital, of which 6 were reportedly minors, said Tiangco. 

Seven, meanwhile, were being treated, while 2 people needed to stay longer in hospital, according to authorities. 

An ammonia tank inside the ice plant exploded in the afternoon, authorities said, adding that they had a hard time entering the building because of the chemical's strong odor. 

Villanueva said the leakage has been controlled, but there was difficulty controlling the odor because it was windy. 

In a later statement, the mayor said the odor has subsided as of the story's posting, citing information from the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office. 

"Sa ngayon po ay nasarado na ang valve na nag-leak at hinihintay na lamang nating humupa ang amoy ng ammonia. Tinatayang aabot ng 2 hanggang 3 oras bago po humupa ang amoy sa lugar," the mayor said in a statement. 

(We have closed the valve where the leak originated, and we are just waiting for the scent of the ammonia to subside further. It is estimated that it will subside further after 2-3 hours.)

Food packs for affected residents were also sent to the City Social Welfare and Development Office. First-aid stations will also remain in the area, he added. 

Tiangco earlier ordered residents to evacuate because of the ammonia leak, and advised the public to avoid North Boulevard and R-10 Road. 

Liquid ammonia is used as a refrigerant or coolant for manufacturing purified tube ice.

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Cold storage 'family-owned'

In an interview on ABS-CBN's Teleradyo, Tiangco said the cold storage facility is a family-owned business. 

"First I would disclose.. 'yan po ang pagmamay-ari ng isang korporasyon na mother ko ang isa sa mga may-ari . . . Namana nila iyan sa lolo ko," he explained. 

(This is a corporation owned where my mother is one of the owners. They inherited this from my grandfather.)

He was informed about the leak at 4:19 p.m. and advised residents to evacuate as soon as he got the news. 

The mayor said authorities from the Bureau of Fire Protection arrived in the area shortly after. 

Ambulances and emergency vehicles were also called nearby. 

"Masakit daw sa ilong... kapag malapit sa lugar. The first thing they had to do was ilikas ang mga residente to make sure they are safe. Then pumasok 'yung BFP," he explained. 

(They say it hurts in the nose area, according to those who live nearby. Residents were evacuated.) 

"Kahit 'yung mga ayaw umalis, sinabihan na umalis na... 'Yung likod po noon ay... high-density (residential area.) 'Yung buong area na 'yun is densely populated," he added. 

(Even those who do not want to evacuate were told to do so. The area behind the storage is densely populated.)

He already issued a temporary closure order for the storage facility, he said, but he has yet to verify if authorities already entered the storage to control the leak. 

The mayor apologized for the incident and vowed swift action, especially that it belongs to his family. 

"Dahil kumpanya 'yan ng mother ko, ako na po ang humihingi ng paumanhin sa nangyari. But we will make sure, kahit kumpanya po 'yan ng kamag-anak ko, sisiguraduhin po natin na kung ano 'yung dapat... dapat mas una sila," he said.

(Because it is my mother's company, I am personally asking for forgiveness with what happened. But even if the storage's owners are related to me, I assure you that they will be held accountable.)

Liquid ammonia, also called anhydrous ammonia, is commonly used in small amounts as a restorative for fainting or headaches, but may cause similar symptoms when people are exposed directly to large concentrations. 

Direct contact can cause irritation at the least or may burn body parts in the event of high exposure.

-- Reports from Job Manahan, Joyce Balancio, and Wheng Hidalgo, ABS-CBN News