A spokesman for the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Environment has said a cloud of poisonous chlorine gas that swept over a densely-populated suburb of the northern city of Kaduna over the weekend has been brought under control.
About 300 people, including children, were taken to hospitals and clinics after inhaling the gas.
Rotimi Ajayi, media manager to federal environment minister John Odey, told VOA the gas leakage occurred when a welder tried to cut a gas cylinder into pieces.
“What happened was that an unskilled artisan was called to work on a gas cylinder which contained chlorine and he inadvertently cut the chlorine open without proper handle. And, as soon as the chlorine was cut open, the gas got emitted into the atmosphere, and a lot of people inhaled it, rendering some of them to be unconscious and had to be rushed to the hospitals,” he said.
Ajayi said both the Metal Scrap Dealer and the welder ran away and were being sought by the authorities.
“There were two individuals that were involved, according to eyewitnesses, and the two individuals as of the time I’m talking to you are still at large. But, the police are on their trail,” Ajayi said.
He said, in anticipation of disasters such as the Kaduna City accident, the federal government has begun to put in place measures to prevent such accidents.
“In order to upgrade what we had before now, the Federal Ministry of Environment has just concluded a plan. We call it National Chemical Emergency Coordinating Plan. It’s a contingency plan put in place for all stakeholders that are handling chemicals and other hazardous substances to be able to have an input in how we can enlighten Nigerians on how to properly handle what is very hazardous and dangerous to life and to the environment,” he said.
Ajayi denied the Nigerian Federal government was lax in its regulation of the metal scrap business which led to the Kaduna accident.
“One thing you should give to Nigeria is that since we started democracy in 1999, we have had to suffer every aspect of life in the country. And this takes a long time in terms of how you’re going to put everything in order. Now democracy has allowed Nigerians to be able to put order in their lives in every way that you want to make of it,” he said.
Ajayi said the police were in the process of investigating the matter, and that it was too early to say whether a crime had been committed or not.