A chemical spill Thursday at a Caltex oil refinery in an eastern Australian city sent 24 people to the hospital with burning skin and respiratory problems, police said.
Refinery manager Andrew Brewer said hydrogen fluoride began spilling from the facility when a pipe burst, but the leak was immediately stopped and contained by water.
Hydrogen fluoride mixed with water creates hydrofluoric acid, a highly corrosive chemical which can cause severe skin burning, irritated eyes and breathing problems.
Police said 45 people were evacuated from the refinery in the eastern city of Brisbane and were treated by emergency services at the site. Of those, 24 people were taken to a hospital for further medical treatment.
“All of us at Caltex deeply regret that people have been injured at our site,” Brewer said. “Our focus today is on caring for the people affected and their families.”
Caltex is conducting a full investigation of the incident, which did not affect production at the refinery, Brewer said.
Police sergeant Julie Elliott said emergency services were monitoring gas levels in the area.