Dangerous Material Leak Shuts Down Highways, Trains

Road 6. Photo by Chen Leopold/Flah90
A view of Israel Highway 6. (Chen Leopold/Flah90)

For the second time in two weeks, southern Israel was exposed to a major leak of dangerous materials as the result of a vehicular accident. On Tuesday, several of the main highways in the area of Kiryat Gat were closed when a vehicle crashed into a truck that was carrying ammonia. The truck jackknifed, and ammonia began leaking, and police suspended all traffic on area highways, including Road 6, the main north-south artery in the area.

Train service between Tel Aviv and Be’er Sheva was suspended as well. Trains were kept out of the area for about two hours, until police determined that the situation was under control. Highways were opened about three hours after they were closed down.

Police said they had opened an investigation into the incident. The investigation will examine the behavior of the drivers, as well as whether the truck carrying the ammonia was up to standards.

Last week, hundreds of residents of Dimona were told to lock their doors and close their windows after a freight train carrying bromide and phosphate rammed into several train cars that were parked at the Dimona station and released the chemicals into the atmosphere. Several residents were treated for breathing problems and skin irritation. Police closed the area around the incident overnight, and residents were required to remain inside with their windows closed.

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.

Commenting on the incidents, MK Yael Cohen Paran said that the accidents needed to be investigated “thoroughly by the relevant authorities. This string of accidents involving dangerous materials must raise a red light to all those involved, especially those in charge of the environment, to prevent further incidents like this, which could turn into a terrible tragedy. We must review the methods by which these materials are transported throughout the country.”