Sunday, 15 February 2015

Toxic cloud over Barcelona.

Residents of five towns in the Province of Barcelona, Spain, were forced to stay inside for much of the morning of Thursday 12 February 2015, after an explosion at the Simarsa chemicals plant  resulted in a fire and a cloud of toxic fumes which covered the area. The incident happened at about 9.45 am at the Les Comes industrial site in the town of Igualada, where workers were loading a truck. Quantities of two chemicals, nitric acid and ferric chloride came into contact and reacted explosively, resulting in three workers being injured and the release of a large volume of toxic vapor.

Cloud of toxic vapor over the town of Igualada in Barcelona on 12 February 2015. Cordon Press.

Around 65 360 people in the towns of Igualada, Anoia, Jorba, Odena, Vilanova del Cami and Santa Margarida de Montbui were asked to remain inside till the cloud dispersed, and rail lines and roads passing through the area were closed off temporarily. Residents were advised it was safe to leave their homes two hours after the initial incident, though it was advised that children, pregnant women, the elderly and anyone with respiratory problems remain inside for longer. Local water supplies are being investigated for contamination.

Nitric Acid is a colourless but extremely strong smelling liquid, it is highly corrosive and acts as an oxidizing agent. Exposure to the skin can cause severe chemical burns, and inhaling the vapor can result in severe respiratory problems. Ferric chloride is also corrosive and an oxidizing agent, and reacts explosively with water, a reaction which generates a great deal of heat.

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