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Chemical Leak Forces Evacuation Of Morro Bay

MORRO BAY, Calif. (AP) 10.04.01, 11:50a --

Most of this picturesque tourist town was evacuated today as crews cleaned up a 300-gallon chemical leak from a refrigeration unit at a closed fish processing plant. About 1,500 people were evacuated at 7 a.m. after the anhydrous ammonia spill at the plant which is being remodeled, county battalion fire chief Kevin Olson said.

Anhydrous ammonia is a cold liquid that causes deep burns and quickly releases caustic fumes that are easily inhaled. There were no injuries.

Construction equipment punctured the refrigeration unit at Wednesday afternoon, Olson said. Hazardous material crews stabilized the leak until Thursday so that people would not have be evacuated overnight.

An elementary school near the spill was closed, and a high school was being used as temporary shelter, Olson said.

Tourists had begun arriving in the town, midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, for its three-day Harbor Festival, which begins Friday.

-- PHO (, October 04, 2001

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