Negligence behind Jordan's Aqaba port explosion, interior minister says

Two Jordanian maritime officials have been sacked after results of investigation

Investigators examine the site after a tank of chlorine gas exploded at Jordan's Aqaba port, killing 13 people. EPA
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Two marine officials were fired on Sunday as the authorities said negligence was behind a chlorine gas explosion that killed 13 people last week at Jordan's only port of Aqaba.

The explosion on June 27 occurred when a large chlorine gas tank that was being loaded by crane on to a vessel, the China-flagged Forest 6, fell by the dockside and exploded in a plume of yellow smoke.

Aftermath of chlorine gas explosion at Aqaba port in Jordan

Aftermath of chlorine gas explosion at Aqaba port in Jordan

The accident was one of the deadliest in Jordan in recent years.

Interior Minister Mazen Al Faraya said that an official investigation determined that senior port officials bear responsibility for "negligence, lack of caution, or disregard for rules and regulations", which led to the accident.

Following his statement the official news agency said that the head of the port and the head of the Jordan Maritime Commission were fired.

Mr Al Faraya, who headed the investigation, told reporters that cable holding the 28.9 tonne chlorine cylinder was designed to carry a load of only 8.6 tonnes.

"The cable became elongated and snapped," he said.

Two government newspapers reported that Aqaba port workers began a strike on Sunday to protest against the lack of safety at the port. But a port source said there was only a brief stoppage.

Among the 13 dead were five Vietnamese crew members of the Forest 6, the Vietnamese government said.

Chlorine gas is so deadly that it is regarded as a banned chemical weapon.

The Syrian air force was suspected of using chlorine gas in an attack on the rebel town of Saraqib in 2018, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons reported.

The US Centres for Disease Control classifies Chlorine gas as a lung-damaging agent and says it is “highly corrosive when it contacts moist tissues such as the eyes, skin and upper respiratory tract”.

The explosion occurred as Aqaba and other tourist sites in Jordan are seeking to recover from a sharp fall in visitors caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Many tourists use Aqaba as a base to visit the nearby Nabataean city of Petra, which is two hours away.

At least 10 people died in March last year when the oxygen supply ran out in the coronavirus ward of a government hospital in the central Jordanian city of Salt.

Updated: June 20, 2023, 7:06 AM