12 JAN 2023: Twelve people taken to hospital after Serbia’s second ammonia leak in less than a month

The owner and driver of the tank truck from which the ammonia solution leaked on January 12 were arrested on suspicion of causing a general danger and damaging the environment, announced the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office.

As stated in the announcement of the prosecution on January 13, the person in charge of the company and the driver were detained and detained for 48 hours.

There is no danger to people’s health and safety after the ammonia leak, authorities from that city told Radio Free Europe (RSE).

In the evening hours of January 12, there was a leak of ammonia solution from a tank truck in the settlement.

Commander of the Fire and Rescue Battalion of the Emergency Situations Sector of the Ministry of Interior of Serbia, told RSE that the evacuated residents who live near the accident site have been returned to their homes. “A total of thirty people from ten houses were returned to their homes around three o’clock in the morning, after the measurements determined that there was no danger to their health. Earlier, the quick action of the firefighters stopped the leakage from the tank car”. He added that the problem was reported at 10:30 p.m. and that the authorities reacted immediately and stopped the discharge of ammonia solution from a tank on a truck in the parking lot of a private company. He noted that it was a matter that is milder than pure ammonia and stated that the investigation will show the causes that led to the accident.

The mayor told RSE that there is no reason for concern. “Six adults and six children were transported immediately to the General Hospital and none of them are in danger. All of them were sent home after an examination”. He added that the city, republican and provincial services are working on the case. “What exactly happened will be determined by the ongoing investigation. Competent authorities will address the public when they finish their work”.

In the morning hours of January 13, journalists could not approach the scene of the incident in the settlement, because their access was limited due to the ongoing investigation. About 200 meters from the parking lot where the tank from which the chemical substance leaked is located, a police car was stationed, with verbal information that passage was not possible.

Residents of settlement: ‘It’s not pleasant’
The residents, some of whom have lived there for 40 years, told RSE that they hope there will be no more similar problems. “We are a little better now, but last night was not very pleasant. We saw the police and emergency services, they told us to leave the house, ammonia was leaking. I guess this will not happen again”. “I was sleeping, I had just come home from work, they woke me up to go out. I’m looking and I don’t know what’s going on. I was out of the house all night, and I’m just now coming back. Those tankers should be moved out of here” “Well, I wasn’t scared, when they already announced that there was no reason to be afraid. Most likely, there won’t be any fear then. We hope now, with God’s help”

The spokeswoman of the Hospital confirmed in the morning hours of January 12 that after the accident, twelve citizens were examined in this health facility and that no signs of poisoning were found among them. “They were worried about their health because they were near the chemical leak. It was found that they had no signs of poisoning”. She noted that some patients received oxygen as a precaution, but that they were not in danger.

Emergency situation in Pirot, more than 50 people with symptoms of ammonia poisoning
This is the second accident related to the transportation of dangerous goods in Serbia in a short period of time. At the end of December, four out of 20 tank wagons transporting ammonia derailed near Pirot. After the accident, more than 50 people were hospitalized due to symptoms of poisoning. On December 26, the day after the accident, Transport Minister Goran Vesić said that the cause was poor infrastructure.

Overturning of a tank wagon with dangerous ammonia near the village of Jasenovik in Nis on January 25, 2019. Locals were evacuated. Fortunately, there was no ammonia leak then.

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