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Hazardous spill, forced evacuation following deadly crash on Arizona interstate

Image Source: KGUN-TV video screenshot

On Tuesday afternoon, a deadly crash on an interstate highway in Tucson, Arizona, caused hazardous chemicals to leak from a commercial tanker truck, leading to a forced evacuation and highway closures, KGUN-TV reported.

Around 3 p.m. on Tuesday, a truck carrying a load of nitric acid overturned on Interstate 10, causing authorities to issue an extensive highway closure and a shelter-in-place order for those within a one-mile radius of the crash.

The driver of the commercial tanker vehicle was killed as a result of the crash, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Few other details about the incident have been released.

Following the crash, drivers in the area shared videos on social media showing orange and red fumes rising from the wreckage.

DPS posted on Twitter shortly after the incident, “Interstate 10 is closed in BOTH directions between Rita Road & Kolb Road in Tucson due to a crash and a hazmat spill. We anticipate an extensive closure. Please avoid the area.”

Individuals within a half-mile of the crash site were evacuated “out of an abundance of caution,” DPS reported. Those in the immediate area were advised to turn off heating, air conditioning units, and any other equipment that may draw in contaminated outside air.

The evacuation order impacted a nearby school district, a hotel, and the University of Arizona Tech Park.

The shelter-in-place order was temporarily lifted around 9 p.m.; however, it was reinstated at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning after more gas was released when crews attempted to remove the wrecked truck.

Around 8 a.m., Unified Command extended the shelter-in-place order to include a three-mile radius around the crash site.

“Unified Command advises those who are currently evacuated should expect to remain displaced until approximately mid-day,” DPS stated. “Recovery and mitigation efforts on the hazardous materials experienced temporary setbacks overnight due to weather conditions. Crews have now removed the material from the truck and are utilizing dirt to mitigate further off gassing. Interstate 10 remains closed in both directions between Kolb and Rita roads in Tucson.”

Nitric acid is used to manufacture dyes, fertilizers, plastics, and explosives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to the chemical compound can cause irritation to the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes. Prolonged exposure to nitric acid can lead to delayed pulmonary edema, pneumonitis, bronchitis, and dental erosion.

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