Philippine chemical spill sickens 20 people; 3,000 flee homes

Tuesday, November 28th 2006, 5:49 am
By: News On 6

MANILA, Philippines (AP) Noxious fumes from a chemical dumped into a Phillipine creek sent at least 31 people to a hospital Tuesday and forced at least 4,000 to flee their homes, officials said.

Residents of the town of Marilao, many covering their noses with handkerchiefs, left their homes before dawn complaining of dizziness and vomiting caused by the odor, the Office of Civil Defense said.

The office said 16 children and 15 adults were hospitalized and 1,000 people were evacuated to a school.

The civil defense headquarters in Manila said 3,000 residents of a community near the river also fled to village and municipal halls after being roused by the acrid smell.

Several infants and toddlers were rushed to a nearby hospital, where their mothers told doctors the children had difficulty breathing and some vomited.

"I feel weak. It smelled awful,'' resident Merlyn Aguilar said from her hospital bed. "My nape hurt, my chest hurt, then I just suddenly collapsed.''

One Marilao resident, Carlos Clemente, told ABS-CBN television he saw a truck dumping a liquid into a creek near the river, then rushing away. The oily substance contaminated a farm and the nearby river.

The driver of the tanker truck and his two assistants were later arrested in a parking lot in the nearby town of Santa Maria. The three men and the truck's owner will be charged with violating laws on hazardous wastes, Police Chief Inspector Lalaine Amparo said.

Amparo said the men told police they loaded the chemical waste from a plastic factory in the northern Manila suburb of Valenzuela and dumped the cargo in Marilao, an agricultural and industrial town 15 miles north of Manila.