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16 hospitalized; 100 relocated

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The National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) says 16 persons have been hospitalized and 100 others relocated from Chicken Soup Factory Community along the Somali Drive following an incident of undiluted chlorine pollution in the area Wednesday morning, 14 November.

Addressing a press briefing at the Ministry of Information Thursday, 15 November NPHIL Deputy Director General for Administration,. Henry A. Blake, says one of the 16 persons that were hospitalized is critical because she has a swollen foot and was unable to run during the pollution of the undiluted chlorine in the community.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says concentrated chlorine gas leaked out of a tank, causing the pollution.But the NPHIL and the EPA are calling on residents of Chicken Soup Factory to be calm as the situation is under control.

The NPHIL’s Blake says the incident occurred at 3:30 AM on Wednesday, but there was no death reported.According to Blake, 15 persons were taken to the Barbara – Ann Memorial Health Center in Gardnerville while the other lady that is critically ill was rushed to Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town, Bushrod Island.

The EPA’s Rafael Nyumba says they arrived on the scene at 8:20AM upon hearing of the incident, nearly five hours following the pollution.According to Mr. Nyumba, concentrated chlorine gas leaked out of a tank, adding that the undiluted chlorine was found in the compound of a scrap company named North Star that is situated in the Zinc Camp Community.

Mr. Nyumba continues that many people, including women and children were seen fleeing their homes and holding their noses to avoid the polluted odor of the chlorine.He explains teams from the EPA, NPHIL the Liberia National Police (LNP) and nurses from the Ministry of Health were able to relocate the container from the affected area to Disco Hill Community in Margibi County.

Meanwhile, Mr. Nyumba says residents of the Disco Hill Community too were afraid that they could be affected in similar manner as those in Chicken Soup Factory in Montserrado County.However, he says the responding team has assured residents of Disco Hill that the container no longer poses any threat to human lives, as its content has been defused.

Meanwhile, Mr. Nyumba says the EPA will be sending its team to the affected area to test all the wells there to know if any of it got affected.He notes that if there is a problem with any well, it will be handled.

At the same time there is a threat of lawsuit in the tune of US$2m to be filed at the Gardnersville Magisterial Court against the management of the North Star Scraps Company situated in the National Transit Authority (NTA) Zinc Camp community for its alleged illegal disposal of harmful chemical substances.

Locals say it affected a little over 20 persons, including women and children.Some of the victims are identified as Fatu Newton, Juleh Johnson, Elizabeth Kular, Darous Newton, Dennise Tonpoh and Tumu, among others.

They are hospitalized due to the effect of the harmful and dangerous chemical substance which pollutes the air of the community.

Zinc Camp Community Chairlady Madam Nancy Wlue says the decision to sue the North Star Scraps Company is unanimously reached at the end of mass meeting held on 15 November.But she denies report that over one hundred residents were relocated from the community, contradicting government’s account.She says everyone who fled their homes returned, except those under critical conditions.

By Lewis S. Teh & Emmanuel Mondaye–Edited by Winston W. Parley

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