RIO DE JANEIRO – Four people died and 16 others became ill on Tuesday as a result of a toxic gas leak at a tannery in the southwestern Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, authorities said.
The accident occurred at a tannery that is part of an industrial complex in Bataguassu, 340 kilometers (211 miles) from Campo Grande, the state capital.
Five of the 16 poisoned survivors are in serious condition and have been admitted to the hospital in Bataguassu, paramedics said.
A specialized group of firefighters cordoned off the tannery and sprayed water over it to form a mist with the aim of preventing the spread of the toxic substance, identified as dichloro-proprionic acid.
A spokesman for Marfrig, the multinational company that owns the complex, confirmed to Efe that the escape of the chemical had been controlled and that it did not affect the adjacent meat-processing plant.
The company is investigating the cause of the accident, but it is believed to have started when a chemical reaction occurred during the handling of substances used in the treatment of leather.
Marfrig is the second largest meat-processing firm in Brazil and one of the largest food supply firms in the world with plants in Europe, Asia and the United States. EFE