Salacgrīva crash highlights issues in chemical accident prevention

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In the morning of November 3, a truck carrying chemicals crashed into a wall of a building in Salacgrīva. The accident revealed significant shortcomings in the readiness of Latvian officials and services to prevent chemical accidents, Latvian Television reported Wednesday.

As a result of the crash, the truck has turned into a pile of scrap and the house into rubble. Representatives of the responsible services say it is a miracle that both the occupant of the building and the driver of the car survived the accident.

The State Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD) received a call to the site at 5:23 AM. When arriving at the crash site, the main and most difficult job was to remove the driver. He was lodged in a cubicle that was almost completely flattened between the wall of the house and the containers transported.

The driver was taken to the hospital in a severe but stable condition. There was only one occupant in the building at the time of the accident, a young man. Even though the building had collapsed completely, he had hardly suffered.

“The truck crashed right into the corner of the house where his bed was. And he was hit by that blow with the whole bed behind the furnace. Thank God, it was really durable, and didn't let the whole structure go over him,” said the man's mother and the owner of the house, Tatjana.

The man only had a few bruises and didn't need hospitalization. However, the biggest headache for the municipality and the environmental service is the collection of the spilled chemical. At the time of the crash, several cubic meters of polyester gum mixture “Aropol”, used in manufacturing and construction, were leaked. It contains styrene, a flammable substance hazardous to human health and the environment.

Firefighters cordoned off the area so that the contamination did not reach the wastewater and covered the substance with foam so that it did not ignite. Meanwhile, the local government tried to find specialists who could pick up the dangerous substance. As it turned out, it was not so easy.

The public services do not do this on their own, but the local government is not permitted to do so by themselves. Private companies should therefore be looked for, which have their own red tape ahead. Only in the afternoon did the local government manage to agree with the company, PAO, which plans to start collecting the chemical on Thursday.

Styrene releases poisonous fumes into the air, but the leakage in Salacgrīva is not so great that the residents have to worry about health. Specialists urge people not to approach the crash site unnecessarily, and neighboring residents to refrain from ventilating their rooms for the time being. The local government is prepared to offer temporary accommodation elsewhere in the city, farther from the contaminated site, to those residents who want it.

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