*Additional reporting by Phontham Visapra and Chono Lapuekou
Latest update below
A leak at an ice company has caused a health hazard in Viengchanlern and Phonphanao villages, Vientiane Capital, as dangerous chemicals, including ammonia, were released into the air. The incident has left the villagers struggling to breathe and experiencing eye pain.
The authorities have not yet provided any details regarding the incident. However, the villagers have reported that this evening, around 5 pm, they began to feel the effects of the chemicals that were released into the air.
“I feel intoxicated now. The sad thing, nobody is aware of what it is [crying face emoji] eyes, nose and heart! It’s powerful,” a Facebook user who goes on social media by Lokho Chalai commented under a post about the event just minutes after the leak.
As locals and expats tried to find a safe area and shared their concerns online, the Vientiane Capital Rescue Team, firefighters and local authorities promptly released their resources on the ground.
Sithana Luanglath, 23, a volunteer of the Vientiane Capital Rescue Team, reported that the situation is now under control. He also confirmed the substance released was ammonia.
Ammonia is a highly toxic and corrosive gas that can cause irritation and harm to the eyes, nose, throat, and respiratory system. Exposure to elevated levels of tis substance can result in severe burns, lung damage, and death. In cases of ammonia leak, it’s essential to evacuate the area and promptly contact emergency services.
“The chemical was leaking from Sikhiew Ice Company, located in Viengchaleuan District,” he said. “The authorities are spraying water around the area to calm the chemical down.”
While the exact cause of the leak remains unknown, Sithana reported it was leaking from “some sort of tube,” which is now under maintenance by a team of electricians.
The surrounding villages are now safe, but areas in the close proximity to the ice company remain affected by a small amount of ammonia, according to the rescue team, who is now coordinating with the chemical department of the Ministry of National Defence for additional support.
We will keep you updated with more details as the situation develops.
10:00 am, 26 October, 2023.
The ammonia leak has been swept under the rug and villagers are left in the dark.
Despite concerns that the toxic gas may still be present in the air, no notice has been issued to residents and life has seemingly returned to normal. This morning, in Viengchanlern and Phonphanao, Vientiane Capital, schools are open and local businesses are fully operational.
Villagers were not informed of the potential dangers or provided with health safety guidelines.
Emergency services, including ambulance and police, have also failed to respond to calls made to their emergency phone numbers.
Experts warn that exposure to ammonia can cause respiratory problems, eye irritation, and even death in extreme cases. The longer the exposure, the more severe the effects can be.