Death toll rises in Haifa oil refinery gas leak

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A third worker at an oil refinery in Israel's coastal city of Haifa died of injuries Wednesday morning, after a cloud of highly toxic bromine gas leaked out at the facility Tuesday evening, officials said.

Several other employees and rescue service personnel have been hospitalized from injuries sustained in the leak, local media reported.

Officials said on Wednesday that an initial investigation into the cause of the leak showed that after a worker succumbed to toxic fumes emanating from a storage container, three others who came to his aid, but were not wearing protective gear, were also injured according to the Ynet news site.

The "Refinery installations have been shut down over the last month for scheduled work," according to site operators, Oil Refineries Ltd.

"As part of this, a number of workers approached an installations containing gas, wearing full protective gear, including masks. For a reason that is not yet clear, they were affected by the flow of gas," the Ha'aretz newspaper quoted a statement as saying.

A Haifa district director of Israel's Environmental Protection Ministry, Shlomo Katz, said the gas leak was an isolated event and that there was no danger to residents in the area.

"It is clear that this was a specific event that couldn't have been caused by anything other than negligence. They did not work according to protocols. If they would have worked as they were asked with a closed security system this never would have happened, " Katz told Ha'aretz.

The victims' relatives said they want a full probe to ascertain responsibility for the incident.

"The area is as dangerous as a nuclear bomb," National Infrastructures Minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, told Israel Army radio on Wednesday, and said he was working to gradually close down the facility over the course of several years.

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