Residents have been asked to seek refuge after an ammonia spill at a chemical plant in northeastern Ukraine allegedly caused by Russian shelling.
The leak was reported near the town of Sumy around noon. 04:00 (02:00 GMT) Monday morning, with a radius of between 2.5 km and 5 km around the site, which is now considered dangerous.
Reports indicated that a pipeline or tank at the Sumykhimprom plant was damaged by Russian artillery.
Residents of the town of Novoselytsya, in accordance with the wind direction from the plant, were asked to take shelter in basements and close windows.
In a post on Telegram, Sumy regional governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyy told residents: “Ammonia is lighter than air, so shelters, basements and lower floors should be used for protection.”
He said those living nearby should turn on their showers because water absorbs ammonia from the air, but not to turn on ventilation, which could remove the clean air.
If they smell ammonia, residents have been asked to wrap damp gauze around their faces and breathe through it.
He also shared first aid instructions for those affected by ammonia poisoning.
According to some reports, an employee of the factory was injured. The emergency services are supposed to be on site.
The Sumykhimprom plant is located on the eastern outskirts of the town of Sumy, which has been hit by heavy shelling in recent weeks.
Zhyvytskyy said the city center was not under immediate threat because the wind did not blow the ammonia against it, Reuters reported.
With a population of about 263,000, Sumy was the first Ukrainian city to experience a successful evacuation of civilians.
There are concerns about that Russia can use chemical weapons in Ukrainewith Western intelligence officials believing Moscow could stage an attack and blame the Ukrainian government as a pretext for further attacks.
What is ammonia?
Ammonia is frequently used in the manufacture of fertilizers, plastics, synthetic fibers, pharmaceuticals and cleaning products.
It is produced through natural decomposition of organic matter so that it is found in very low levels in the environment without causing harm. It is naturally produced in the human body.
However, direct exposure to ammonia is dangerous and in some cases can be fatal.
Inhalation of high levels of ammonia can cause burning and swelling of the airways, and lung damage, while inhalation of low levels can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. The effects are likely to be stronger in those with asthma or other breathing problems.
Ingestion of ammonia can burn the digestive tract. In severe cases, inhalation or ingestion of ammonia can be fatal by causing damage to the respiratory system, stomach and heart.
Ammonia also burns the skin by direct contact with liquid forms or exposure to concentrated vapors and gas. Spraying ammonia in the eyes can lead to blindness.