Members of the Alexandra Volunteer Fire Brigade don bright
orange chemical splash suits and breathing apparatus while
fellow members work inside the Hinton Estate coolstore to
stop a gas leak. Photo by Sarah Marquet.
People were evacuated from their houses and others were
told to stay indoors following an ammonia leak in Alexandra's
industrial area yesterday.
Alexandra Volunteer Fire Brigade Chief Fire Officer Russell
Anderson said contractors working at the Hinton Estate
coolstore in Chicago St cut into a pipe they believed had
That sparked an emergency services callout that resulted in a
100m cordon being placed around the coolstore.
Central Otago sub area commander Senior Sergeant Ian Kerrisk
said from the six houses within the evacuation zone, two
people were evacuated to outside the cordon. People at
businesses and Dunstan Educare, an early childhood centre,
were told to stay indoors as the situation was treated as
Although it took the brigade about two hours to bring the
situation under control, it took them less than 15 minutes to
isolate the system and turn off the gas valve, Mr Anderson
''It all takes time; it's not something you can just rock up
to and do.''
He said the contractors were upgrading safety valves on the
refrigeration unit but when they cut through the pipes, they
found the system was not isolated as they had been led by
another contractor to believe. He said the contractor who cut
the pipe was taken to Dunstan Hospital as a precaution.
''They [the contractors] reacted pretty quickly; there were a
couple of breathing suits in that room.''
He said the contractors were the only people working at the
coolstore, as the fruit-packing season was yet to begin.
A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokeswoman
said it was making ''preliminary inquiries''.
Mr Anderson said the Otago Regional Council, the Central
Otago District Council and the Southern District Health Board
had been notified, as had a hazardous substances technical
He said any residual ammonia would dissipate into the
Howie Hinton said the incident would not affect their