South Korea designates Gumi chemical leak area disaster zone
09 October 2012
South Korea has designated an area around a plant where an explosion led to a toxic chemical leak a special disaster zone. Five people died and 18 were injured in the blast, and eight tonnes of hydrofluoric acid leaked from the Hube Global plant in Gumi after the blast on 27 September.
Since then some 3,000 residents have sought treatment for nausea and other ailments, Yonhap news agency says, with three hundred people moving out of the area.
Hydrofluoric acid is corrosive and can cause burns to the eyes and skin. It can also irritate the respiratory system and is very toxic if swallowed.
The explosion and leak - which took place as workers unloaded acid from a tanker - have withered plants and trees in some areas and also affected livestock, Yonhap reports.
The gas leak has also cost factories in the industrial complex about 17.7 billion won ($15.9 million) in lost production, prompting calls for emergency help from the central government.
Officials designated the area a "special disaster zone" on October 8, a statement from the prime minister's office said, meaning residents will be eligible for aid and compensation.The government has begun a formal investigation.
Gumi is an industrial city about 200km south-east of Seoul.
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