Injuries reported after Iraqis exposed to chlorine gas leak at water plant

State-run media confirms leak as private news outlets put the number of injuries in the hundreds

Nasiriyah, the capital of Dhi Qar province, which is probing a chlorine gas leak at a water purification station in the town of Qalat Sukkar. AFP
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Four people were taken to hospital after an unknown number of Iraqis were exposed to a chlorine gas leak at a drinking water plant in the southern province of Dhi Qar.

Iraq state media confirmed the leak at the water purification station in the town of Qalat Sukkar, which lies along the Gharaff Canal, one of the tributaries of the Tigris river.

Plant director Falah Al Etabi said a number of Iraqis were affected but did not disclose how many had been admitted to hospital for treatment.

“Four people remain hospitalised and their condition [is] stable,” said Mr Al Etabi, according to Iraqi news agency Ina.

However, private media put the number of people exposed to the leak at between 200 and 310, amid reports of some developing breathing problems.

Dhi Qar Governor Mohamed Al Ghazi said an investigation would be opened into the incident. He pledged to remove any plant official found responsible for the leak.

Local police said the leak was the result of an eroded gas cylinder, the Shafaq news network reported.

According to the World Health Organisation, exposure to low levels of chlorine gas after a leak or explosion could leave victims feeling a burning sensation in the eyes and throat, in addition to breathing difficulties or bouts of coughing, as well as potential burns to the skin.

In severe cases, exposure to high levels of chlorine gas can cause fatal damage to the lungs and airways.

Dhi Qar province has faced regular anti-government protests over the past three years, as has been the case with several other cities and towns in Iraq's south.

Protesters have sought to topple the entire political establishment in the country amid anger at endemic corruption, high unemployment and poor public services.

A protester holds an Iraqi flag next to burning tires blocking the road during a protest calling for employment opportunities in Basra, Iraq, in June. Reuters

The demonstrations have been the bloodiest since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

An operation by security services killed at least 700 people and wounded thousands in the first six months since the protests began in October 2019, according to independent and international rights groups.

The unrest led to the resignation of the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi, prime minister at the time.

The Dhi Qar chlorine leak comes seven days after a fatal chlorine gas incident at the main Red Sea port of Aqaba in neighbouring Jordan, which killed 13 people and injured more than 250.

The deaths and injuries happened after a crane loading chlorine containers on to a ship last Monday dropped one, causing it to explode.

Jordanian authorities dismissed senior officials at the port on Sunday after finding them guilty of gross negligence.

Updated: July 04, 2022, 8:34 AM
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