Israeli Killed, Five Injured in Pipe Explosion Near Dead Sea

Pipe carrying hydrochloric acid explodes at pumping facility near Ein Yahav; police, Magen David Adom rescue services on the scene; roads in area closed to traffic.

One person was killed and five were injured on Monday when a pipeline carrying hydrochloric acid exploded near Kibbutz Ein Yahav in southern Israel.

The injured were evacuated by helicopter to Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva. Four were in serious condition, while a soldier who was helping evacuate the injured was also lightly wounded.

The explosion occurred when a drill operated by national water company Mekorot hit a pipeline carrying hydrochloric acid at a site adjacent to a quarry, some nine kilometers south of Kibbutz Ein Yahav.

Five teams of firefighters are operating at the site, as well as IDF rescue teams.

Police, accompanied by two helicopters, have closed all roads leading to the quarry, as well as Road 90.

Haim Vingrin, a volunteer with the ZAKA emergency rescue service, who was working at the scene, told Haaretz, "One of the pipes carrying acid exploded. Five people were wounded and one was killed, apparently from smoke and acid inhalation. [The wounded] were given first aid and their clothes were removed."

Magen David Adom spokesman Zaki Heller said, "According to the initial reports that we received, there were ten people inside the facility at the time of the incident. Five of them managed to escape, while five others apparently inhaled the acid and are suffering from serious breathing difficulties. All of the injured are between the ages of 45-55."

Israel's Ministry of Environmental Protection said there was no danger to residents of the area as a result of the incident, and that hazmat teams were on their way to the site.

Ministry personnel at the site instructed rescue teams on how to protect themselves while evacuating the injured. Representatives of the ministry will conduct checks to detect any hazardous materials that may have spread beyond the site of the accident.

Mekorot said the incident occurred during maintenance and rehabilitation work at the Ein Yahav 16 drilling site in the Arava region.

Following the incident, MK Dov Khenin, who chairs the Knesset's Joint Environment and Health Committee, said, "Time after time we see that the that the status quo in the field of hazardous materials in Israel neglects the lives and health of citizens, workers and passersby. Accidents involving hazardous materials are not unavoidable, they can be prevented but this requires a real revolution in the field in Israel."

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The site of the explosion at Ein Yahav 16 in the Arava region.
Eli Hershkowitz
Pumping facility at Ein Yahav