15 die from ammonia leak at seafood company in Shanghai

SHANGHAI (AFP) - A liquid ammonia leak from a refrigeration unit at a food company in China's commercial hub of Shanghai killed 15 people on Saturday, the local government said.

The leak also sickened at least 26 others, who had been sent to hospital, with six in critical condition, the Shanghai government said in a statement.

The incident occurred shortly before midday on Saturday in the city's northern district of Baoshan at a cold storage unit owned by a seafood company, media reports said.

Photos on the website of the Xinmin Evening News, a local newspaper, showed fire trucks at the scene with hoses on the ground.

The government did not say whether the company's workers or people living in the urban area nearby were affected.

Liquid ammonia used in refrigeration can cause destruction of lung tissue, potentially resulting in death, and chemical burns on the skin, according to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The company, Shanghai Weng Pai Cold Storage Industrial Co., is engaged in the import and export, storage, processing and sales of aquatic products.

It has the capacity to freeze 150 tonnes of products a day, according to its website.

Shanghai is considered to be more tightly regulated than other cities in China, but this marks the second accident at a food company in the city in less than a month.

On August 20, five workers at a Shanghai food company died after inhaling poisonous fumes while cleaning a vat used for making pickled vegetables, the government said.