1 died, 76 hospitalized in ammonia leak incident in Navotas

One man died while 76 residents from a bayside community in Navotas City were sent to the hospital Wednesday following an ammonia leak in a cold storage facility owned by the family of Navotas Mayor Toby Tiangco, authorities confirmed.

1 died, 76 hospitalized in ammonia leak incident in Navotas
AMMONIA LEAK. In these photos from CNN Philippines, a senior citizen is lifted into an ambulance after being affected by ammonia that leaked from an ice plant in Navotas City on Wednesday, while residents near the plant in North Bay Boulevard South and Road 10 were evacuated (inset). Red Caay and Carmelo Dado/CNN Philippines

Gilbert Tiangco, 44, who worked at the T.P. Marcelo Ice Plant and Cold Storage, the source of the chemical leak, was declared dead on arrival at a hospital, according to Vonne Villanueva, the incident ground commander.

Tiangco said 59 persons were sent to the Navotas City Hospital and 17 to Tondo General Hospital. Six of the victims were minors, the mayor confirmed.

Around early Wednesday evening, Tiangco said the smell of the chemical already subsided, citing observations by the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.

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

This was the second ammonia leak incident in Navotas following another in an ice plant on Lapu-Lapu Avenue weeks ago, GMA News reported.

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

In an interview on ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo, Tiangco said the cold storage facility is owned by a corporation “where my mother is one of the owners. They inherited this from my grandfather.”

He was informed about the situation at 4:19 p.m. and the mayor advised residents to evacuate as soon as he got the news. Tiangco said authorities from the Bureau of Fire Protection arrived shortly after.

Ambulances and emergency vehicles were also called nearby.

“The first thing they had to do was evacuate the residents. They say it hurts in the nose area, according to those who live nearby. Then the BFP moved in,” he said.

“Even those who do not want to evacuate were told to do so. The area behind the storage is densely populated,” Tiangco said.

The mayor already issued a temporary closure order for the storage facility, but at press time he had yet to verify if authorities already entered the storage to control the leak.

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

“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,” he said.

Liquid ammonia, also called anhydrous ammonia, is commonly used in small amounts as a restorative solution 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. 

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