The number of fatalities reported following an ammonia leak at an ice plant in Navotas City rose to two on Thursday morning after a cadaver was found inside the establishment.
City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) head Vonne Villanueva said the latest victim was a 54-year-old electrician of T.P. Marcelo Ice Plant and Cold Storage where the ammonia leak occurred.
“Sya po ay nakita ngayong umaga, nakasiksik po sa isang gilid, na medyo malayo po, mga 20 metros po ang layo doon sa impact site (He was seen stuck at a corner, some 20 meters away from the impact site),” Villanueva told DZBB.
Mayor Toby Tiangco, in a Tweet, identified the second fatality as Joselito Jazareno. “Sa inisyal na imbestigasyon, nakita po siya malapit sa sumabog na surge tank,” Tiangco said. (Based on initial investigation, he was found near the surge tank that exploded.)
The initial fatality was 44-year-old Gilbert Tiangco, also an ice plant employee, who was declared dead on arrival at the hospital on Wednesday following the incident.
Villanueva said the recent victim was only discovered on Thursday as responders still had difficulty checking the site due to foul smell on Wednesday evening.
“Dahil malakas pa po ang amoy at yung epekto ng kemikal sa tao, di agad nasearch ng masinsin. Syempre inabot na rin po ng gabi (Due to the foul smell and the effects of the leak on the people, we were not able to immediately conduct operations last night. Our evacuation efforts also ended at night),” he said.
Tiangco said a total of 96 individuals were rushed to nearby hospitals—Navotas City Hospital, Tondo General Hospital and Philippine General Hospital (PGH)—for medical assistance.
According to Villanueva, five of them who are at PGH “were reported to be still in critical condition.”
By 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Villanueva said about 3,000 affected residents were already allowed to return to their homes after the oxygen level in the area returned to normal.
The ammonia leak occurred at T.P. Marcelo Ice Plant and Cold Storage in Barangay North Bay Boulevard South (NBBS) at around 4 p.m. on Wednesday, sending hundreds of residents out of their homes to escape the foul smell.
Tiangco in an ANC interview Thursday said, the company is partly owned by his mother, who has 25 percent shares in the company “by virtue of inheritance.”
He assured affected residents that they would get assistance from the company following the incident.
“That’s what I’m waiting for from the Bureau of Fire (Protection). They were very busy last night so I haven’t received the report yet,” Tiangco said when asked if there was negligence committed by the company in terms of maintaining the safety of its employees.
Villanueva said that when he went to ground zero, he saw a ruptured tank that allegedly caused the leak.
“I saw a big tank, it’s called a surge tank and it can contain 500 gallons of ammonia. It was somehow ruptured. So the ammonia that it contained leaked out and caused the foul odor,” he said in a CNN Philippines interview.
Tiangco encouraged the national government to lead the investigation to avoid questions on conflict of interest on his part.
“If there are national government agencies, I welcome you po, and encourage you to investigate so that the investigation will be objective,” he said.