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Dammam fire raises pollution fears

Heavy smoke and the acrid smell of chemicals still lingers over Dammam's industrial city from a huge fire that broke out Sunday at an ARASCO factory containing 23,000 tons of animal fodder.
ARASCO is a Saudi company that produces and markets food and agricultural products and services. The factory where the fire started manufactures fodder combined with chemical substances that are highly flammable.
Ammar Al-Magrbi, spokesman for the Civil Defense in the Eastern Province, told Arab News that the fire has been brought under control, but that it would take a few more days to remove smoldering fodder. "We are working to clear the substance out of the area to reduce smoke."
“The overall effects are restricted to the location of the accident, so all the working teams are wearing masks to avoid poisoning and suffocation. It is a blessing that the warehouses are a distance away from populated areas,” he said.
Spokesman of the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME), Hussein Al-Qahtani, said the organization is monitoring the movement and direction of wind in the area. The PME is also studying the composition of the air and the potential harm caused to the environment and humans.
“The fire caused chemical interactions due to the mixture of the chemical materials with the vapors. This resulted in the emission of carbon dioxide into the air.” These emissions can cause breathing difficulties, asphyxiation, respiratory allergies and eye irritations, he said.
Al-Qahtani said Civil Defense teams are taking measures to control the situation and are hoping that the movement and speed of the wind may help confine emissions to one area until all traces of the fire are removed.
“The presidency will follow up by measuring air quality and levels of pollution,” said Al-Qahtani.

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