80 evacuated after acid spill
ONE worker was taken to hospital and 80 evacuated yesterday after a chemical spill at a Kwai Chung workshop.
The spill began shortly after 10 am as workers poured nitric acid into an 850-litre tank inside Core Enterprises' electroplating workshop at Star Centre on Castle Peak Road.
A 21-year-old worker who inhaled toxic fumes from the acid was sent to Yan Chai Hospital where he was treated and discharged.
About 20 litres of nitric acid leaked from the copper valve of the tank and spilled onto the ground.
'After mixing with metal, the solvent was billowing with nitrogen dioxide - the fumes are toxic and could seriously damage our lungs,' Senior Inspector Leung Lai-yiu of Kwai Chung police station said.
'One worker inhaled it and suffered burning eyes. He was sent to hospital for treatment.' The copper valve on top of the tanks is believed to have malfunctioned when the acid was being poured in.
There were five men and a woman inside the workshop at the time.
The fumes spread through the lower-ground floor workshop and about 80 workers on the first three floors had to be evacuated from the 26-storey building.
Firemen equipped with chemical protection suits and breathing apparatus were dispatched.
The spill was stopped two hours later as firemen used calcium-hydroxide powder to quell the fumes and a fan was brought in for additional ventilation.
Kwai Chung fire station Commander Yiu Pak-ling said nitric acid was classified as a category-three dangerous good and companies were required to obtain a government licence if more than 10 litres of the solvent was being stored.
'We have no doubt more than 10 litres of the acid was stored in the workshop. Our officers from the Fire Prevention Bureau are investigating whether the company has been granted a licence,' he said.
The maximum penalty is a $25,000 fine and six years' imprisonment.