Netanyahu: I view the Haifa incident very seriously

PM responds to Tuesday's gas leak which left 3 workers dead; "Haifa refineries pose risk as serious as nuke explosion" says Ben-Eliezer.

November 24, 2010 19:45
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at Technion

Netanyahu at Technion prize ceremony 58. (photo credit: Avi Ohayun / GPO)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a reaction Wednesday evening to the leak at a Haifa gas refinery which left three workers dead on Tuesday night.

The incident is being viewed very seriously, he said, and added that Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer would be presenting his findings following an investigation at the next government session.

Securities Authority mum on oil, gas rules

Earlier on Wednesday, Ben-Eliezer said that gas refineries in Haifa pose a risk as serious as a nuclear explosion. Speaking at a gathering in Herzilya, the minister said he has been warning of the dangers in the area for years and that he "hopes that with time a careful evacuation of the area will occur."

Ben-Eliezer said that safety inspectors from his office investigated Tuesday night's accident, which killed three and injured five as a result of the gas leak. "If I see that the area continues to pose a risk, I will bring about its closure."

The victims who died have been identified as cousins George Za'atrah, 31, Tamer Marjiah, 33, and Tamer al-Haj, 18, all residents of Yafia near Nazareth.

The gas leak was contained shortly after the incident, a spokesman for the refinery said.

Earlier in the day, bromine leaked out of a storage container at the refinery. The leak was quickly found and plugged. Bromine is an extremely hazardous material which has the potential to cause serious injury and death.

Bromine is mined in the Dead Sea and then mostly transported to the Haifa Port for shipment overseas. Some of it goes to Ramat Hovav for domestic use. If a transport container were to break open, the corrosive material would eat into the ground and contaminate ground water and destroy infrastructure.

Moreover, a serious spill could kill anywhere from 6,500 to 350,000 people, according to Environmental Protection Ministry estimates. The Knesset has recently begun looking into the transport of bromine from the Dead Sea. Most of the shipments go to the Haifa Port through five population centers instead of to the far closer and less populated route to the Ashdod port.

Meanwhile, down south, a small leak was discovered in the container of a truck carrying 21 tons of bromine to the Ramat Hovav Industrial Park on Tuesday afternoon. The leak was discovered at 12:30 p.m. and treated by 1:30 p.m. by the Ramat Hovav environmental unit in conjunction with the southern district office of the Environmental Protection Ministry.

No one was injured and an investigation has been launched to see if any of the protocols for transporting the material were violated.

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