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Aqaba toxic gas leak case files referred to prosecutor general — interior minister

Probe points to lack of expertise in handling hazardous items, ‘negligence’

By JT - Jul 03,2022 - Last updated at Jul 03,2022

Interior Minister Mazen Faraya and Minister of State for Media Affairs Faisal Shboul hold a press conference at the Prime Ministry in Amman on Sunday, announcing the details of a probe into the toxic gas leak at the Aqaba port last Monday (Petra photo)

AMMAN — The main cause of the toxic gas leak at the Aqaba port was the lack of conformity of the metallic cable to the weight of the cargo, snapping the cable, Interior Minister Mazen Faraya said on Sunday.

Faraya, during a joint press conference with Minister of State for Media Affairs Faisal Shboul at the Prime Ministry, said that all the case documents were referred to the Prosecutor General’s office to proceed with legal procedures, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

The interior minister stressed that higher and medium-level employees at the Aqaba Company for Ports Operation and Management (ACPOM) "do not have leadership skills".

A report of the incident showed that necessary precautions for public safety in handling such hazardous items were lacking, the minister said.

Faraya added that the Council of Ministers agreed to end the services of directors general of the Jordan Maritime Commission and the ACPOM, and other officials at the company. The Cabinet also approved dissolving the board of directors of the company.

He noted that the investigation proved the ACPOM director general and the company's director of operations, head of the unloading and loading section, head of the unloading and loading shift, head of the ship and others were responsible.

The minister added that the investigation also showed that some officials delegated tasks to untrained personnel, pointing to "negligence and lack of precautionary measures".

Regarding the investigation committee, Faraya  said that it had three main objectives: Seeking truth and to hold those responsible accountable as per the law; highlighting shortcomings and recommending ways to address them to avoid similar incidents in the future; and assuring the public that the state deals with the incident seriously through necessary measures that prevent it reoccurrence.  

He added that the committee, during the investigation, listened to all officials at the ACPOM and the people concerned with handling containers and ensuring safety at the port.

Regarding the Vietnamese victims, Faraya said that contacts have been made between the Vietnamese embassy and the Foreign Ministry over the issue, noting that victims have been accorded care in accordance with international norms and standards. 

The Aqaba port resumed normal operations the day after the incident, he added.

Speaking also during the press conference, Shboul commended the government institutions’ swift and professional response.

He also highlighted His Majesty King Abdullah and HRH Crown Prince Hussein’s follow-up on the incident from the first moment, adding that Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh, accompanied by Faraya and the health minister, rushed to Aqaba immediately to find out the causes of the accident and lead rescue efforts.

The port city’s field hospital that was allocated to COVID-19 patients received 45 per cent of the injured, besides Prince Hashim Bin Abdullah II Hospital, Islamic Hospital and Aqaba Modern Hospital, Shboul, who is also the government spokesperson, said. 

A total of eight injured in the incident are still receiving treatment in hospitals, out of which two are in Amman, while two patients will be discharged on Monday, he added.

Responding to a question over the safety of Aqaba’s air and water, Shboul stressed that tests conducted by the Ministry of Environment, Royal Scientific Society, and Civil Defence Department’s personnel, showed that the port city’s water and air are safe 

Regarding the referral of the Aqaba toxic gas leak investigation report with all details to the Public Prosecution, the government spokesperson said that three public prosecutors in Aqaba rushed to the scene immediately to probe the incident.

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