51 Poisoned with Ammonia after a Freight Train derailed in Serbia – Bulgarians Must Not Leave their Homes!
An ammonia wagon overturned near the Serbian town of Pirot, 51 people were hospitalized, and a state of emergency was declared in the town. It has a sizable Bulgarian minority.
Pirot Mayor Vladan Vasic declared a state of emergency in the town last night after a wagon of a freight train carrying ammonia overturned near Sopotski Khan. During the accident, gas leaked from the carriage and a high concentration of ammonia was released into the atmosphere, as a result of which 51 people were hospitalized with symptoms of poisoning. Due to the state of emergency, schools in Pirot will not be open today.
The wagon of the freight train carrying ammonia overturned around 5:30 p.m. on a section of the railway from Pirot to the village of Stanichene, near Sopotski Khan, the Serbian Interior Ministry said.
RTS reported that the accident occurred when a group of 20 tankers derailed, "at least one of which fell into the riverbed of the Nishava river, which caused a violent reaction of ammonia upon contact with the water." The Emergency Department of the Serbian Interior Ministry confirmed that 51 people with symptoms of ammonia poisoning have been hospitalized so far, two of them with severe symptoms. Seven people were transferred to the University Clinical Center in Nis. They have stable vital signs and mild chemical burns. The Ministry of the Interior urged the citizens who live near the accident not to leave their homes and not to go outdoors.
27 firefighters with 10 fire trucks were sent to the scene. Due to the incident, the railway traffic on this line was stopped. Due to poor visibility, the traffic between Pirot and Bela Palanka on the main road has been interrupted. The alternative route is through the village of Ponor. Second-shift workers at “Tiger Tires” have also been evacuated, and third-shift workers will not come to work.
The company "Serbia Cargo" reported that this is a freight train that runs daily on the Nis-Dimitrovgrad section and transports raw materials from Bulgaria to Prahovo and Shabac. AFP reported that chemical waste from Bulgaria was also transported in the wagons of the derailed train.
The owner of the online portal Pirot plus, Nenad Paunović, told H1 earlier this evening that the 30-kilometer stretch from Bela Palanka to Pirot smells strongly of ammonia, and visibility is very poor.
"The residents of Pirot are very scared and no one should leave their house," Paunovic pointed out.
Bulgaria’s Deputy Minister of Transport: The derailed ammonia train was carrying Bulgarian cargo, operated by Serbian Railways
At the moment, there is no information about any injured Bulgarian citizens in Pirot after the ammonia leak from the train that derailed near the Serbian town.
“The train was carrying Bulgarian cargo, but there is no way to claim responsibility from our country for what happened, since at the time of the derailment, the train was operated by the Serbian state railways.” This was stated by the Deputy Minister of Transport Krasimir Papukchiiski on BNT.
"The train set has Bulgarian cargo and was loaded on the territory of Bulgaria. All 20 wagons are French and German, having been hired, transported by a Bulgarian private operator to the border with Serbia, where the set was handed over to colleagues from the Serbian state railway operator. The drivers are on the part of the Serbian operator. Responsibility cannot be sought from Bulgaria in the situation that the Serbian railways technically accepted the train at the border and took it from there," said Deputy Minister of Transport Krasimir Papukchiiski.
Bulgaria has offered help to deal with the incident. Serbian authorities are currently analyzing whether there is a need for one.
According to the information of the Bulgarian authorities, 3 wagons of the train overturned. During the derailment, there was a burst bubble on one of the ammonia tanks which resulted in a serious spill. From the other two overturned cars there was a leak from the hatches, but this was quickly brought under control.
Our consul in Nis: No Bulgarians were injured in the accident with the derailed ammonia train
“No Bulgarians were injured in the incident in Pirot, where a Bulgarian freight train loaded with ammonia derailed”, the Bulgarian consul in Nis, Dimitar Tsanev, said on BNT.
"We received the first information about the incident from our compatriots, who contacted the Consulate General in Nis. After examining six of them, it turned out that their condition was not worrisome and they have been released at the moment. There are 51 Serbian citizens injured and as far as I know - Greek citizens who are in a condition requiring hospital treatment. One or two of them are life-threatening," Tsanev said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises Bulgarian citizens not to travel to this area. The on-site investigation is ongoing.
"A state of emergency has been declared in Pirot, which requires citizens to refrain from leaving their homes. Classes have been canceled. We, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have made a recommendation to our compatriots who intend to travel to Pirot and the area, to refrain from that," he also pointed out.
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