Arizona: An overturned truck spills toxic nitric acid clouds, forcing evacuations

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A truck overturned after a fire crash on an Arizona highway, forcing the roadway to close and local residents to protect themselves as it spewed toxic yellow fumes into the atmosphere.

The truck was hauling nitric acid, a key component in fertilizers, dyes and explosives, east of Tucson on Interstate-10 around 2:45 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

The driver of the truck was confirmed dead at the scene of the accident. They have not yet been identified. The cause of the accident has not yet been clarified, and authorities have not said whether other vehicles or motorists were involved in the accident.

Rescue workers try to contain a fire and a chemical spill on an Arizona highway

Rescue workers try to contain a fire and chemical spill on an Arizona highway (Image: Reuters)

Videos taken by motorists show the truck lying on its side and toxic yellow fumes rising into the atmosphere.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nitric acid is highly corrosive and can cause “eye, skin, and mucous membrane irritation, delayed pulmonary edema, pneumonitis, bronchitis, and dental erosion.”

The Arizona Department of Public Safety (ADPS) dispatched HAZMAT teams to the area, as well as firefighters to contain a spreading bushfire and police officers to cordon off an “extensive” stretch of road.

Hours later, around 6:45 p.m., ADPS began evacuating residents within a half-mile radius of the crash site and issued a shelter-in-place order to people within the next mile.

That order was lifted just two hours later, but was reinstated at 4:55 the next morning. ADPS also ordered all residents within a mile to turn off air conditioners or heaters while they took shelter.

“Gassing occurred while crews attempted to remove the cargo from the utility vehicle,” ADPS said.

Interstate-10 remains closed in both directions.

Emergency vehicles are seen as an overturned truck spews orange smoke in the background along the I-10 highway in Tucson, Arizona, U.S. February 14, 2023. Tucson Fire Service/Handout via REUTERS THIS PICTURE WAS SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT

Firefighters drive to the scene with yellow clouds in the distance (Image: via REUTERS)

The dangerous spill came just 11 days after a train derailment caused a massive fire and chemical spill in eastern Palestine, Ohio. The subsequent controlled release of the train’s chemical charge a A huge cloud of toxic fumes forms over the crash site.

A strangely similar incident occurred last June when advancing Russian forces in Ukraine bombed a chemical plant in the city of Severodonetsk. The airstrike created a similar plume of toxic yellow smoke across the southern Ukrainian city.

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Justin Scaccy

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