By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Firefighters continue their work at the Santos Port, in São Paulo, Brazil, where a fire broke out on Thursday afternoon destroying containers filled with chemical products. According to officials, water from the rain leaked into containers containing hydrochloric acid and sodium dichloroisocyanurate, creating a chemical reaction which caused the fumes and the fire.

Toxic chemical cloud released by reaction of rain to stored chemicals at Santos Port,
Toxic chemical cloud released by reaction of rain to stored chemicals at Santos Port, photo courtesy of São Paulo Fire Brigade.

As many as eighty firefighters and dozens of police officers and army and navy personnel were called to contain the fire at the Localfrio container terminal.

The area was cordoned off and those who reside near the area were asked to leave their homes. At least sixty-six people were treated for nausea and throat and eye irritation at area medical centers, the reported local media.

City officials stated Friday morning that the fire had been contained, but there is still a lot of smoke in the area. “The situation is serious,” said Guaruja’s mayor, Maria Antonieta de Brito.

“Residents need to stay away from the area. If you are at home, seal off doors and windows with dry rags and do not leave your homes. If a resident feels ill, seek medical help immediately,” she added. The mayor also warned residents that the rain which has fallen on and off during the entire week in Santos may contain chemical elements which could burn skin.

The cloud of toxic gas reached the cities of Guaruja, Santos, São Vicente and Praia Grande. The Localfrio terminal is located on the Guaruja side of the Port, across the bay from the Santos margin, where the main cargo and passenger terminals are situated.

According to Celia Souza, Port of Santos press spokesperson, with the exception of the terminal where the fire started and the terminal next to it, Santos Brasil, all other port terminals are operating normally.

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