Workers evacuated in toxic-fume scare

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 October, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 October, 2000, 12:00am

Hundreds of people were evacuated during a cyanide-spill scare in Tuen Mun yesterday as smoke billowed from a chemical waste collection truck.

The driver and a delivery worker heard a bang and saw smoke pouring from the back of the vehicle outside the Playmates Industrial Building in San Hop Lane at about 11.30am.

A security guard, 55, complained of feeling ill after inhaling fumes and was taken to Tuen Mun Hospital. About 200 workers were evacuated from the building and nearby blocks as the fumes - first suspected to have contained cyanide - spread.

Firemen, government chemists and Environmental Protection Department staff were called to the scene where four teams of officers wearing breathing apparatus were on standby.

Pillar Point fire station commander Tang Shin-hing said tests carried out by government chemists showed cyanide was not involved in the spill.

Officers wearing chemical protection suits opened the rear compartment and found that the cover had been blown off a 20-litre container. The container was placed inside a larger one and clean-up work was carried out inside the compartment. The chemical waste was later taken to a treatment plant in Tsing Yi.

Mr Tang said the container was carrying organic solvent which had been collected from a company in the Playmates Industrial Building.

An Environmental Protection Department spokesman said the solvent, which contained more than one chemical, was not very toxic and samples had been taken for examination. Workers were allowed back into nearby buildings at about 2.30pm.