Fumes cause evacuation and traffic diversion


24-August-2011

Masked fire fighters putting sand in the bin

There were traffic jams as police diverted traffic to roads passing away from the area and cordoned off the STC’s car park in Victoria, where the fumes from the large bin were coming from, in a situation made worse when the chemical caught fire.

In a joint press conference yesterday evening, police, fire services, health and environment officials said a private pest control company – Gills Pest Control – on Saturday fumigated the STC supermarket, and apparently threw away into the container the toxic aluminium phosphide pellets that remained.

The highly poisonous chemical is used in the form of pellets as a rodenticide, insecticide, and fumigant for stored cereal grains under strictly controlled conditions.

The pellets also normally contain other chemicals that produce ammonia gas which helps reduce the risk of self ignition or explosion of the phosphine gas they release.

The officials said the disposed pellets reacted with moisture in the bin and apparently self-ignited, although they did not rule out chances that the fire could have been caused by an external source.

Fire services officers called to the scene soon after 8am realised the water they were using to douse the fire was causing the chemical to react more, and soon resorted to using crusher dust.

After all danger was passed, the container was taken to an isolated area where it will be today further examined to ensure that all the chemical has lost its power before it is disposed off.

The health and environment officials said the chemical is quite powerful initially but after it has reacted it quickly forms harmless compounds.

The area is perfectly safe today, they said.
They said a few people reported to the Seychelles Hospital with breathing difficulties but were treated and discharged.

Nation’s team who went to the scene saw fire fighters dousing the flames and others later, throwing crusher dust into the bin.

“There seemed to have been a smouldering fire since early morning then around 9.30am there was a small explosion after which gases seemed to have been released that made my eyes tear,” said a witness, who told Nation she was working in the region, requesting anonymity.

Like other people who had been in the area, one lady nearby complained her skin itched “the way it does when you have a rash” and said she had developed a headache.

The officials during the press conference yesterday

Police spokesperson Jean Toussaint said many passersby – “as usual” – ignored the cordon line his department had put in place, and urged the curiosity-driven public to avoid such scenes for their own safety especially when the cause of an incident has not yet been determined, as was the case initially yesterday.

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