Residents of five towns in Catalonia have been warned to stay indoors after a chemical explosion at a warehouse spread a massive orange toxic cloud.
The blast occurred when products being delivered to a warehouse in Igualada became mixed, exploded and set a truck on fire, according to a spokeswoman for Catalonia’s regional fire service.
Two people were slightly injured in the explosion. Firefighters said the chemicals which have engulfed skies over the town were nitric acid and ferric chloride.
Exposure to nitric acid vapor can cause problems if it is inhaled, swallowed or comes into contact with the eyes or skin. It is usually just an irritant, commonly affecting the eyes, throat and skin but higher doses can cause sever burns. Prolonged exposure to the chemical can also lead to breathing difficulties and eventually lung damage.
People working with nitric acid or ferric chloride must wear protective clothing and are told to wash with soapy water if contaminated before seeking emergency help from hospital.
The region’s Civil Protection department ordered 65,000 residents of Igualada and four nearby towns to stay indoors and keep windows and doors closed until the cloud dissipated.
While the order was lifted two hours later, pregnant women, children, elderly people and those with respiratory problems are being urged to stay inside. During the alert, roads going in and out of Igualada – situated 40 miles northwest of Barcelona – were cordoned off.
Authorities urged people not to place themselves in danger by taking photographs of the cloud. The water systems of the towns are also being checked.