Toxic gas leak at Warrenpoint Harbour

December 10, 2012

By Christine Keighery

A toxic leak from a ship docked in Warrenpoint Harbour led to a large scale emergency operation in the seaside town last Wednesday morning.

Eighteen people suffered from the effects of exposure to the aluminium phosphide gas which had leaked from the Arklow Meadow ship docked in the harbour.  A number of homes were also evacuated as emergency services set up a 50 metre cordon around the ship.

It is believed the cargo of the ship, became unstable and wet, which resulted in the release of the toxic gas, which is used as a pesticide, insecticide and fumigant for stored cereals and is also used to kill small mammals such as moles and rodents.

Out of the eighteen treated for the effects of the aluminium phosphide (AIP) gas, nine were taken to hospital and released later the same day while the other nine were treated at the scene as a precaution.

As the drama unfolded, the Public Health Agency (PHA) reassured concerned residents that there was no risk to the wider public and all risk of adverse health effects associated with the incident applied only to those who had come into direct contact with the gas.

The Southern Health and Social Care Trust also sought to allay public fears by setting up a free phone telephone number for relatives and friends who wished to enquire about patients being treated for the effects of AIP gas.

The PSNI and PHA were quick to contain the incident to the small area within the harbour itself and evacuated residents returned to their homes after a short period on Wednesday.

A police spokesperson confirmed that the incident is being treated as an industrial accident and will be investigated by the HSE in consultation with the Maritime and Coast Guard agency.