SCDF officer at chlorine gas leak: 'It felt like a movie'
On Sunday, seven people were taken to hospital after a chlorine gas leak in Tuas. CYNTHIA CHOO (email@example.com) speaks to the SCDF team which plugged the leak, and tries on a Hazmat suit
When Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) second warrant officer (2WO) Zul Faizal, 34, entered the warehouse where the leak had occurred, he felt as if he had walked into a movie.
Speaking to The New Paper on Wednesday at the Civil Defence Academy in Jalan Bahar off Lim Chu Kang Road, he said: "I thought I was on a movie set.
"The only source of light shone through the shutters of the windows."
Yellow chlorine fumes engulfed the side door entrance and carpeted the floor.
2WO Faizal was part of a four-man hazardous materials (Hazmat) team deployed to plug a chlorine gas leak on Sunday at about 9.20am.
As he was wearing a chemical protective suit, the only sound 2WO Faizal could hear was his breathing.
He said: "Visibility was low, which made the task even more challenging."
His vision was also blurred as he had to wear an oxygen mask underneath the suit's visor.
If not for the suit, 2WO Faizal and his men could have suffered breathing difficulties, eye irritation and blisters on their skin.
The toxic chlorine gas could also cause fluid to build up in their lungs when exposed to it for prolonged periods.
The chlorine gas leak happened in Chemical Industries (Far East) at Jalan Samulun.
Seven people, including two SCDF officers, were taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital in three ambulances.
The Hazmat specialists were able to plug the leaking valve in under 20 minutes.
With the help of suppression jets that diffused the chlorine gas, the team spotted a stream of gas gushing out of a leaking valve among some 100 cylinders in the warehouse.
2WO Faizal and his team got to work.
First, they screwed on a replacement cylinder cap over the cracked valve and secured it with duct tape.
Then, they sealed the valve with putty paste.
The specialists were not always so nimble.
Sergeant Syukri Johari, 25, who was part of the team, said: "When I first started training, the stiff rubber gloves on the suit made holding even a pen difficult."
The specialists had to go through a three-week course to understand the risks of chemical hazards. They also have to pass a certification test every six months.
Major Huang Weikang, 33, commander of Tuas View Fire Station, who was at the scene on Sunday, said: "People may not understand the risks of dealing with hazardous materials because often, these chemicals are gaseous and cannot be seen.
"They understand fire is dangerous because they can see the flames and the smoke.
"But chemical hazards can be equally, if not more, dangerous."
People may not understand the risks of dealing with hazardous materials because often, these chemicals are gaseous and cannot be seen.
- Major Huang Weikang, commander of Tuas View Fire Station