Ammonia Leak in Israeli City Prompts Rail Shutdown

Residents near train stations in Acre instructed to stay inside after leak at Unilever factory ■ Three treated for burning eyes, dizziness

Firefighter near the factory where an ammonia leak was detected, Acre, Israel, June 27, 2019.

An ammonia leak was detected Thursday in a Unilever factory in the northern city of Acre, causing authorities to evacuate people from a nearby mall and shut roads and train stations in the area. Residents living near the train lines were instructed to stay in their homes.

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Police closed main roads in the area as well as train stations in Acre and the northern city of Nahariya. The stations were briefly opened when firefighting teams said the leak had been contained and shortly after were closed again when the leak resumed.

Acre residents evacuated from a mall after an ammonia leak is detected in a nearby Unilever factory.

According to the firefighting teams, the leak was probably caused by a solution of ammonia and oil, which evaporated outside the factory.

Three women, aged 31, 33 and 37, were treated at a nearby hospital suffering from burning eyes and dizziness. Their injuries were considered minor and no other injuries were reported. 

In March 2012, an ammonia leak was reported at the same Unilever factory and people were evacuated from the same mall, causing no injuries. The leak was contained and no casualties were reported.

The police allowed the area to reopen after the Environmental Protection Ministry found no signs of ammonia in the area. The factory has been operating for the past 60 years, while the mall, owned by the Azrieli Group, has been open for only several months prior to the leak.

The ministry had objected to building a mall that close to the factory, which stores 17 tons of ammonia on site to operate its cooling facilities. But the Acre municipality let it go up anyway.