Israel Railways Admits Human Error in Dimona Chemical Spill

An Israel Railways train Photo by Moshe Shai/FLASH90
An Israel Railways train. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Environment Minister Avi Gabay said that Israel would “get to the bottom of things and assign blame” in Monday’s train accident, in which bromide and phosphates were released into the atmosphere. A total of seven people were hospitalized in the incident, suffering burns or skin lesions as a result of exposure to the chemicals.

Things were back to normal in Dimona on Tuesday after a harrowing night Monday in which hundreds of residents were told to lock their doors and close their windows. The orders were due to a bromide and phosphate leak that had occurred after a freight train carrying the chemical rammed into several empty train cars at the Dimona station. The freight train released the chemical into the atmosphere, causing breathing problems and skin irritation in seven residents, and giving off a powerful odor that wafted throughout the region.

“I feel bad for the residents of Dimona, who had a difficult night Monday,” said Gabay. “What happened was clearly negligence. We don’t need an investigation to understand that leaving empty train cars on tracks is negligence. We will definitely find out who is responsible and take appropriate action.”

Israel Railways said that in its initial investigation, “it appears that 15 cars were mistakenly decoupled from their engine and left on the tracks,” and that human error was apparently responsible. The cars were hit by an oncoming freight train that was carrying bromine and phosphates, causing the leak that sent hundreds scurrying to seek shelter and forcing residents to remain inside all night.

Israel Railways has launched a full investigation into the incident. The Dimona railway station is currently closed, but the closure is not affecting transit on other lines, officials said. A spokesperson for the Transportation Ministry said that it, too, was looking into the incident.