Dole plant ammonia leak downs 35 residents in Cotabato
GENERAL SANTOS CITY — At least 35 residents of a village in Polomolok town in South Cotabato were hospitalized early Monday due to an ammonia leak from a production plant of fruit processing giant Dole Philippines Inc. (Dolefil).
Rodelen Atimonan, head of the Polomolok Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO), said the victims fell ill after inhaling ammonia that reportedly leaked from a storage facility of Dolefil around midnight.
He said the affected residents were from Purok Sta. Cruz in Barangay Cannery, which is located beside the Dolefil compound.
“The victims had difficulty breathing and vomited, while some collapsed after inhaling the leaked ammonia,” he said in a radio interview.
As a result of the incident, he said they evacuated residents of Purok Sta. Cruz, Felicilda, Aquino Gate, Sto. Niño, Cannery Site and Sunrise to the Dolefil gymnasium at around 1 a.m.
Atimonan said the evacuated residents, around 2,000 individuals, were allowed to return to their homes at around 7 a.m.
In a statement, Dolefl said the incident was caused by “a temporary accidental ammonia release” from one of its facilities in Barangay Cannery, Polomolok at around 11:45 p.m.
It said the company’s response team immediately contained the ammonia release.
“The factory was on a regularly scheduled shutdown at the time. We are currently investigating the cause of the release,” Dolefil said.
The company said the affected residents of Purok Sta. Cruz were immediately brought to the Howard Hubbard Memorial Hospital, which is owned by Dolefil.
As of 11 a.m., 18 of the suspected victims have already been discharged while 17 are still undergoing observation.
Dolefil said barangay officials were immediately informed of the incident and were involved in the management of the victims.
It also reported the matter to the office of Polomolok Mayor Honey Lumayag-Matti.
“Dolefil takes the safety of its employees, its operations, and the community as its top priority. We will continue to monitor those affected to ensure their safety and well-being,” the company said. (PNA)