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What Happened in Lilo?


Aleksi Bezhanishvili

At about 9:00 pm on July 3, chlorine leaked from a tank in one of the private enterprises located in the area of Navtmsheni, Lilo Settlement. The rescue team tried to move the tank to a safe place but at that time more chlorine leaked from the tank. They tried instead to neutralize the leaked chlorine using water cannon and also changed the tank’s damaged tap.

People living nearby the scene of the incident were poisoned by the chlorine. In total, 73 patients were taken to the hospital. Among them were children, one pregnant woman and other local residents. The President of Georgia and Minister of Healthcare visited the injured people.

40 out of the 73 poisoned people were still hospitalized in the morning of July 4. Mamuka Katsarava, head of social services at the Tbilisi City Hall, told Interpresnews that poisoned people were coming into hospitals till 6:00 am, and 33 of them had been discharged by 8:00 am on July 4.

“A new round of discharging patients started at 9:00 am and the process will finish within about 2-3 hours. Everyone was diagnosed with light poisoning and all of them feel well except one patient who is in a coma,” Mamuka Katsarava said.

A young man, 18 years of age remains in intensive care at Ingorokva Medical Center. “Last night his heart stopped beating for five minutes. When this happens, irreversible processes take place in the brain and vital cells die. The doctors cannot offer any promising prognoses with regard to the patient. At the moment they are using an EEG test to try to assess whether vital parts of his brain have survived or not; the doctors will take all measures to assist Lasha Narimanidze,” Mamuka Katsarava said and added that the state budget will cover the expenses for medical treatment of Narimanidze and the other patients.

In addition to Narimanidze, another five patients were still receiving medical treatment in Ingorokva Neuro-Surgical Hospital this morning. Emergency medical doctor Soso Maisuradze told Interpresnews that two poisoned patients are in intensive care and one of them is connected to a respirator. Maisuradze added that the other patients had left the hospital in the morning.

31 poisoned patients were delivered to Ingorokva Hospital; among them was a child of 13 and a pregnant woman who were sent to the appropriate medical centers.

Nine children were placed in Iashvili Children’s Hospital with chlorine poisoning. According to the Iashvili Hospital press-center, the children have average health problems.

“The air is no longer poisoned with chlorine in Lilo settlement,” Temur Giorgadze, head of emergency service of the Tbilisi City Hall told Interpresnews and added that they had tested the air in Lilo settlement several times during the night and concluded that is the values were normal.

“The condition of the air was normal several hours after the incident. There is no danger for the population. According to current information, the chlorine leak was caused by negligence when transporting the tank. The investigation will provide more details,” Temur Giorgadze said.

The chlorine tank was moved to a safe and uninhabited location last night. Both the transportation and unloading in the new location went without incidents.

Firemen told IPN that the chlorine tank will be cooled until the tank is completely free from any poisonous substance.

“At the moment, the tank is almost empty. However, we still continue cooling operations to neutralize the remaining substances in it before the chlorine leak is completely stopped and the tank is empty,” the firemen stationed at the location told IPN.

According to the firemen, after the tank is free of chlorine they will take it to another location.

Emergency medical brigades were called to Lilo Settlements several times on July 4. Citizens, living in residential buildings and working in shops near the scene of the chlorine leak had feelings of nausea, dizziness and throat ache and called for ambulances. However, none of them were taken to the hospital.

Representatives of Emergency Services stated that citizens call emergency brigades because they are panicked. However, the emergency service responds to all calls and people are properly examined.

How people were poisoned

The enterprise located in Lilo Settlement, where chlorine was leaked in the evening of July 3, is now sealed up. Company representatives are not there, instead several police officers are patrolling in the area. Interpresnews’ correspondent reported from the scene of the incident that by midday on July 4 there was still a strong smell of chlorine in the area. Local residents remain suspicious about this fact although they trust official information which claims that there is no threat of poisoning anymore and thus no reason to leave the territory.

As for the accident, according to locals, most of the poisoned people, including an 18-year-old young man, were passengers of a bus. The building where the chlorine leak originated is located in front of a bus-stop. At the time of the leak the bus full of passengers had stopped at that particular bus-stop. In addition, inhabitants of residential buildings across the street as well as fruit-sellers nearby were also poisoned.

A local resident told IPN that the leak had an instant effect on people around him and that he also felt a pain in his throat and fainted after coughing violently.

According to the local population, the poisonous substance spread several hundred meters and the smell was noticed in several parts of the settlement.

Who is the owner of the enterprise?

Local inhabitants do not have any exact information about the company to which the chlorine tank belongs. They say that Iranian citizens are renting it. However, everyone IPN talked to in the settlement agrees that such dangerous enterprises should not be located close to residential areas.

According to information obtained by Interpresnews, the Chlorine tank belongs to Kristal Ltd which is a contractor of the United Water Supply Company (UWSC) of Georgia. On July 3 the UWSC released a statement with regard to the incident at Kristal Ltd.

According to UWSC, on January 3, 2012 they put the liquid chlorine up for sale and the bidding finished on January 24, 2012 with Kristal Ltd as the winner.

The Water Company states the Kristal completely met their requirements and on February 8, 2012 the two parties signed the deal.

According to the contract, Kristal Ltd had to supply the Water Company with 50 tons of chlorine between February 8 and December 20, 2012.

Under the agreement, Kristal Ltd was responsible for the transportation, safety and quality of the chlorine. Following the agreement, Kristal has supplied the UWSC with chlorine three times so far.

The Water Company clarified that Kristal Ltd is fully responsible for the accident in Lilo settlement.

An investigation into the accident has already been launched.

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