Three Indian workers died in an accident on board a ship in the northern Omani city of Sohar, the Sohar Industrial Port Company said on Sunday.
Witnesses said the workers died after inhaling ethane gas that had leaked from the cargo of a ship docked at the port.
"SIPC is working closely with the concerned authorities to investigate the precise cause of the accident," the port company said in a statement issued to The National.
SIPC said the accident happened on Saturday night but did not provide any further details.
"Ethane gas leaked from the ship's cargo haul where it was stored and these workers inhaled it and died," a witness told The National.
Another witness said port workers were unable to leave their offices for several hours due to the leak.
“The gas leak escaped in the air and we could not dare go out. It is a deadly one and if you don’t immediately get medical attention then you die within 30 minutes,” a third witness said.
Ethane, a by-product of oil refinery, is used in the petrochemical industries.
The SIPC freezone is home to one of two oil refineries in Sohar. The refinery usually produces 116,000 barrels a day but is currently producing more — 198,000 barrels per day. The freezone is also home to methanol and aluminium plants, both of which produce ethane.
It is not clear how the gas leak occurred but SIPC workers said the port authorities did not respond quickly enough to the situation.
"Questions can be raised [about] how the leak happened and where were the supervisors who were supposed to unload the stuff safely," an SIPC worker, who did not want to be identified, told The National.
"Also it appears the emergency response of SIPC was poor."