By Nqobile Tshili
A Zambia-bound haulage truck transporting 30 000 litres of sulphuric acid was involved in an accident spilling the hazardous liquid near Northlea High School in Bulawayo’s Richmond suburb.
The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) cordoned off the accident scene due to the dangers associated with sulphuric acid.
Bulawayo deputy police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said the accident occurred on Sunday after the truck driver failed to recognise a T-junction connecting the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Road to Masotsha Road resulting in his truck overturning.
Insp Ncube said the driver of vehicle escaped with minor bruises.
EMA Bulawayo provincial manager, Mr Decent Ndlovu said the accident site was declared a dangerous zone following the acid spillage.
“The implication is that we had to treat the accident scene as a hazardous case which needed to be quickly attended to. Sulphuric acid destroys eco systems and can burn body parts so we cordoned the area so that we could neutralise the acid. We even scooped the contaminated soil. We barricaded the area and had police officers guarding the area to ensure that no one had access to it,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Experts say sulphuric acid is so dangerous that it can result in permanent blindness if it comes into contact with eyes and cause internal burns, irreversible organ damage and possibly death.
Mr Ndlovu said the city was lucky not to receive rains when the accident occurred as the acid could have swept into storm drains contaminating water which could have spelt doom for the environment and its surroundings.
He said the company which was transporting the sulphuric acid has as per the law, agreed to foot the bill to clean up and disinfect the affected area.
Mr Ndlovu warned the public to refrain from milling around an accident scene involving vehicles carrying chemicals and other highly flammable substances.
He said when vehicles transporting highly flammable substances are involved in accidents, it is safer for the public to steer clear of the scene instead of drawing closer to it.
“If there is an accident involving a vehicle transporting any tank, people should not come close to it. I’m reminded of an accident involving a fuel truck where people were burnt after they attempted to draw fuel from a leaking vehicle. Sulphuric accident has a tendency of burning, so people should treat it as very hazardous. If the truck had 30 000 litres and it caught fire, all nearby people could have been burnt to death,” said Mr Ndlovu. The Chronicle