Philippine ice plant ammonia leak leaves two dead, 90 sickened

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (AP) — An ammonia leak from an ice plant in the Philippine capital region left two dead and over 90 others injured or sickened while hundreds of residents fled to safety, an official said yesterday.

Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco said an employee of TP Marcelo Ice Plant died after exposure to ammonia fumes on Wednesday and the body of a second employee, the plant’s electrician, was found in the building yesterday.

Over 90 residents and employees were taken to hospitals after being exposed to the leaking ammonia, which is used as a refrigerant but could be toxic to people in large amounts, officials said.

Over 20 remained in a hospital, complaining of breathing difficulties, eye and skin irritation and other illnesses.

Hundreds of residents near the ice plant fled to safety after smelling the pungent fumes on Wednesday but started to return when the leak eased hours later, officials said.

Tiangco said investigators were trying to determine if ammonia leaked from a pipe or was set off after a half-filled tank exploded. He apologised to the victims, saying the company, which is partly owned by his mother, would shoulder medical and burial expenses.

The plant has been ordered closed and will not re-open until it puts in place additional safeguards. Safety checks in other ice plants and cold storage warehouses in Navotas, one of Asia’s largest fish ports, will be taken to avoid a repeat of the accident, officials said.

Rescuers stand inside the compound of the TP Marcelo Ice Plant in Navotas, the Philippines. PHOTO: AP