A chlorine gas explosion at Jordan’s only port of Aqaba killed at least 13 people and injured more than 250, a senior health official has said.
“We advise citizens in Aqaba to stay indoors and close the windows. This gas is critical,” Jamal Obeidat, head of Aqaba Health Department, told state television yesterday.
Obeidat said there could be more deaths linked to the leak.
The explosion is one of Jordan’s worse accidents in recent years. A flash flood near the Dead Sea in 2018 killed 21 people, most of them students on a school bus.
Amer Al Sartawi, spokesman for the General Security Directorate, said ‘a tanker filled with a toxic gaseous substance fell during transport, which led to a gas leakage at the site’.
Footage shown by state media showed a crane unloading a cylinder on to a vessel. The crane falls and bumps into the side of the ship before falling to the ground and exploding in a plume of yellow smoke. Port workers can be seen trying to flee.
Officials said the cylinder contained 25 tonnes of chlorine destined for export.
Aqaba beaches were evacuated and shipping was halted, state television said.
Information Minister Faisal Al Shboul said the government has sent a field hospital and medical equipment to Aqaba.
At least one plane arrived to Aqaba from Amman to evacuate wounded people, state media said.
The area where the explosion occurred on the Bay of Aqaba is situated 20km from Israel’s southern city of Eilat. Aqaba has a population of 188,000 people and 50,000 people live in Eilat, with the two cities connected by a land border crossing.
Aqaba Governor Mohammad Al Radayaa said the situation ‘has been controlled’.
In the past three years, authorities opened Aqaba up to cheap flights from Europe in an effort to promote tourism.
In addition to the Red Sea, many tourists use Aqaba as a base to visit nearby the Nabataean city of Petra, which is two hours away.