AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah II has called for those responsible for the deadly gas leak on Monday to be held accountable.
At least 13 people were killed and 250 were taken ill when a chlorine tank exploded at the Red Sea port of Aqaba, when a crane dropped it, releasing a large plume of toxic yellow smoke.
The king “stressed the need to provide transparent explanations to the public after investigations conclude, as well as identifying shortcomings and holding those responsible to account by law,” the palace said in a statement. He also offered condolences to victims’ families.
King Abdullah was chairing a meeting on Tuesday at the National Centre for Security and Crisis Management to check on the latest developments of Monday’s gas explosion.
At the meeting, attended remotely by Crown Prince Al-Hussein bin Abdullah II from Aqaba, King Abdullah extended condolences to the families of those who died in the line of duty, wishing the injured a speedy recovery.
The king, who has been following up with the Crown Prince on the details of the incident and rescue and evacuation efforts from the very beginning, stressed the need to provide transparent explanations to the public after investigations conclude, as well as identifying shortcomings and holding those responsible to account by law.
He called for all necessary precautions to be taken to avoid a repeat of such incidents in the future.
And he commended the efforts of Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army and security agencies’ personnel, especially the Civil Defense Department and civilian and military medical staff, for their swift response and high professionalism in dealing with the incident and evacuating the injured.
He said their efforts contributed to saving lives and limiting losses, and he wished a speedy recovery to those injured.
The Crown Prince spoke about his field inspection on Tuesday at the site of the incident, and his visit to the injured who have been hospitalised.
The Crown Prince reiterated the need to maintain cooperation and coordination among all the concerned entities, as all await the investigation’s findings.
Jordan’s Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh visited the site Tuesday and, citing civil defense and environmental authorities, said the gas concentration in the area had returned to normal. He said that most movement at the port had resumed, except for the exact site of the incident which was being cleaned and inspected.
Al-Khasawneh said many of those in hospitals were being discharged.
A government spokesman, Faisal Al-Shboul, told state media that eight of the dead were Jordanian and five were foreigners. Among the injured were Chinese and Vietnamese nationals, hospital officials said.
Video carried on state TV showed the moment the tank exploded, sending dockworkers scrambling to escape the toxic cloud. Some 200 people were hospitalized.
The Public Security Directorate, which initially described it as a gas leak, said authorities sealed off the area after evacuating the injured and sent specialists in to address the situation.
State-run Jordan TV said 13 people were killed. Al-Mamlaka TV, another official outlet, said 199 were still being treated in hospitals. The Public Security Directorate said a total of 251 people were injured.
Aqaba is on the northern tip of the Red Sea, next to the Israeli city of Eilat, which is just across the border. Both are popular beach and diving destinations.
Eilat’s emergency services said in a statement that there was no impact on the city but that they were following the situation closely.