Acid fumes over German town after leak at chemical plant (IMAGES)

At least 150 people suffered minor respiratory issues after a leak from an acid tank at a chemical plant in Oberhausen, western Germany, according to local media. The neighborhood has been evacuated and residents have been told not to leave their homes.

At least 150 people have been treated for minor respiratory issues by the emergency services, but only two of them were taken to hospital, a spokesman for the Oberhausen fire department told MDR.

Among the injured are 40 chemical plant staff, while the remaining 110 are people working at an industrial facility nearby, Spiegel reports.

The leak occurred at facilities belonging to Hamm Chemie company, according to Rheinische Post, citing the local fire department. The tank had contained about 600 cubic meters of 96-percent sulfuric acid, but it is now completely empty, a spokesman for the fire department said.

We are currently checking out whether we can reduce the cloud of the harmful substance,” fire department spokesman Joerg Preussner said, explaining The fire brigades sprayed water up into the air to neutralize the pollutants and clean the air.

Hamm Chemie managing director, Axel Knauber, apologized for the incident, which he said was as a result of human error.

The pipes were incorrectly connected, and the hydrochloric acid tanker uploaded its cargo into the sulfuric acid instead of the required hydrochloric acid tank, T-Online reported.

A criminal investigation is underway, with Hamm Chemie estimating property damage at around 1.5 million euros, according to DPA.

As toxic fumes spread in the area, Oberhausen’s authorities have requested support from neighboring cities. 

According to the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ), several main roads leading to and from Oberhausen’s industrial area were sealed off.

The accident has also disrupted train and ship services, causing kilometer-long traffic jams in the central and western parts of Oberhausen’s downtown area.

There was no evidence of a danger to the environment due to the accident, Oberhausen’s environmental office said.