Firefighter killed, hundreds evacuated after ammonia leak at factory
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Firefighter killed, hundreds evacuated after ammonia leak at factory

Residents allowed to leave homes once again after 20 people injured, roads closed off in wake of accident at Emek Hefer plant

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Emergency units at the scene of a chemical leak in Emek Hefer on November 6, 2014. (Screen capture: Ynet)
Emergency units at the scene of a chemical leak in Emek Hefer on November 6, 2014. (Screen capture: Ynet)

A firefighter was killed and 20 people were injured during a hazardous leak at a factory in central Israel Thursday night.

In an indication the situation was under control, residents living near the Emek Hefer industrial zone north of Netanya were told early Friday morning that they could return to their routines. In addition, the stretches of Route 4 that were closed as a result of the accident were re-opened early Friday morning.

Police had evacuated hundreds of people from the area and residents were told to shut themselves in their homes as ammonia escaped a meat processing plant.

The firefighter, 37-year-old Samer Asli from the Israeli-Arab town of Kafr Qara, went missing in the plant after emergency units lost contact with him at around 8 p.m. He was located by rescuers in critical condition after 11 p.m. and was pronounced dead soon after.

Another 20 people, including a number of firefighters were treated for light to moderate injuries.

Some eight tons of ammonia seeped from the Hod Hefer meat processing plant in Emek Hefer, north of Netanya, according to Channel 2.

Twenty-four firefighting units were dispatched to the scene in an attempt to contain the toxic leak.

A 58-year-old man was moderately hurt from inhaling the substance.

Police closed off nearby highways, and removed hundreds of workers from the industrial area where the factory is located.

Residents of communities nearby were told to barricade themselves in their homes, closing all windows, doors, and air conditioning units.

Police also evacuated a number of wedding halls and supermarkets in the area.

The spokesman for the Netanya firefighting unit told Channel 2 that the ammonia was used to fuel the refrigeration units in the chicken factory, and the leak was likely the result of a pipe that had either cracked or forcibly cut.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch arrived at the scene and was briefed on the situation, Ynet reported, as emergency services expressed concern that the crack would cause the gas tank to break.

The factory, a cooperative of several local kibbutzes, is located in an industrial zone to the south of Hadera.

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