An ice-making factory in Phnom Penh was shut down on Tuesday and its owner and manager arrested after an ammonia gas leak caused seven people to black out, including some of the firefighters sent to the scene.
Deputy Meanchey district police chief Hour Meng Vang said the gas leak occurred because a valve on an ammonia tank was not closed when the manager, Khem Lip, was replacing an old hose. The gas initially knocked out three employees and, later, four firefighters.
“When the firefighters tried to get close to spray water on the leak, the smell of the gas gave them tears and made it hard for them to breathe and they fell unconscious,” he said.
Mr. Meng Vang said the manager, Mr. Lip, and the owner, Ouk Navy, were both arrested. He accused them of unintentional violence and said they would be sent to court to face charges by Thursday.
The three employees and four firefighters were sent to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital and had all since been released.
Chan Borin, director of the Institute of Standards at the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts, said ammonia gas can kill if an unconscious victim is left untreated and that the factory, which has no official name, would have to relocate to a less populated area if it wanted to keep operating.
“We will not allow this ice factory to make ice here anymore because there is a lot of housing in the area,” he said.
Tep Sophal, a nearby resident, said ammonia leaks were an ongoing problem that had been giving him headaches and breathing problems for the past 8 years. He said he had repeatedly complained about the factory to his village chief, but to no avail.
Mr. Sophal said he was glad to hear that it would not be allowed to reopen in the neighborhood.
“The ice factory should not continue here because it affected the community every day,” he said. “The locals always got sick because of the smell of the ammonia.”