Five people died at the factory before they could be taken to hospital, another died in the emergency room.
A liquid nitrogen leak at a poultry factory in the U.S. state of Georgia killed six people on Thursday, and several more were taken to hospital, officials said.
Beth Downs, a spokesperson for the Northeast Georgia Health System, said five people died at the Gainesville plant before they could be taken to hospital, while one person died in the emergency room.
Hall County Fire Department Chief Zach Brackett said firefighters responded to the leak after 10 a.m. at Prime Pak Foods.
“Once the units arrived, they found a large contingent of workers who had evacuated, as well as several casualties who were in that crowd who were also having medical emergencies around the facility,” Brackett told reporters. during a televised press briefing.
Brackett said firefighters, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the state Fire Marshal are investigating what happened. Poultry plants rely on refrigeration systems which can include liquid nitrogen.
“It was a leak of unknown cause that occurred in the system here,” Brackett said. “We still have a lot of information that we are trying to collect on the scene.”
Sean Couch, another spokesperson for the health system, said of the nine other injured patients, three were admitted to Gainesville Hospital in critical condition. Five were treated in the emergency room and were in fairly good condition. One of them was still on his way to the emergency room when Couch spoke.
At least four firefighters were injured and taken to hospital with what Brackett described as “respiratory complaints”.
Brackett said around 130 workers were taken by bus to a nearby church where they were examined for injuries. Couch said a person was taken to hospital from there.
Hall County school officials said students were safe at a nearby elementary school and said the leak was contained and not airborne. About 2.5 km (1.5 miles) of a road past the factory and the school has been closed.
Prime Pak Foods has merged with Foundation Food Group, a company that takes raw chicken and processes it into products such as chicken fingers and individual chicken cuts for restaurants and food service. The CEO of the company did not immediately return a phone call asking for comment.
Gainesville is the center of Georgia’s poultry industry, the largest in the country, with thousands of employees working for several processing plants.