Ministry: Israel Railways to Be Charged in Dimona Chemical Leak

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

The Environment Ministry is opening a criminal investigation against Israel Railways over the recent crash incident in Dimona, in which large amounts of dangerous chemicals were released into the atmosphere, forcing hundreds of people to remain indoors with their windows closed, to avoid the toxic fumes. Israel Railways was given until Thursday to supply a plan to ensure that such incidents do not repeat themselves.

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. However, the Environment Ministry investigation unveiled a long list of negligence and possibly intentional actions that led to the incident. Officials were apparently unaware that the cars had been left behind, and were also unaware as to how many were “loose.” The incoming train was not signaled to slow down, and the cars where the chemicals were stored may not have been up to standards.

Calcalist quoted the Environment Ministry as saying that these issues, as well as others, “raised a strong possibility that violations of statutes against pollution and storage of dangerous materials were committed by Israel Railways staff.” The Ministry will continue its investigation, and will, if necessary, file charges against executives of the organization. Israel Railways was required to submit its new safety plan by Thursday, and if the plan is not thorough enough, the Ministry will, if it has to, ban the transport by rail of dangerous materials.

In response, Israel Railways told Calcalist that it was cooperating with the investigation. “It should be noted that the Transport Ministry is conducting its own investigation, as is Israel Railways itself.”

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