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As it happened

A chlorine accident in a popular spa poisoned 33 people

In early July 2007, an unusual and unexpectedly serious accident occurred in the extremely popular Kalev Spa in Tallinn, poisoning 33 people.

As it was later determined, a 15-litre bucket of approximately 12% chlorine solution was upturned in the process of cleaning in Kalev Spa in Tallinn in the middle of a busy day. As the building is equipped with a very powerful ventilation system, chlorine fumes were immediately sucked in and spread all over the facility.

Peeter Randoja, the spokesman for the North-Estonian Rescue Centre, told Eesti Päevaleht at the time that even several drops of such a strong chemical substance are hazardous. The smell of chlorine could be felt in the entire building and around it, so rescuers had to use breathing protection equipment and chemical protection clothing.

Ambulance crews, the special chemical hazard unit of the Explosive Ordinance Centre and four teams of rescuers evacuated people from the spa and pool area as well as the hotel operating in the same building and started decontamination. The ambulances transported some of the spa visitors who needed medical attention, and others went to hospital themselves. In total, 33 people needed medical care, including 18 children. Two adults and four children had to remain in hospital for longer.

All of those hospitalised were in the pool at the time of the accident, but the chlorine never reached water, spreading through the air. The container with chlorine was upturned in the process of cleaning in auxiliary rooms. The visitors who were taken to hospital complained about coughing, throat irritation and stinging in their eyes. Such irritation could be fatal for people who already have respiratory conditions.

A woman who was having a water aerobics class in the pool at the time of the accident told Õhtuleht newspaper that she started coughing and feeling unwell during the class but thought it was because of vigorous splashing. Then the class was stopped in the middle, and everyone was told to leave the building. The woman was feeling worse by then: her heart was beating fast, and she had difficulty breathing.

What to do in a crisis

Every state does whatever it can to prevent or respond to crisis situations. Still, help will not always reach all people quickly enough because some crises can affect a large part of the population and last for days or even weeks.

Until help arrives and services are resumed, your welfare and that of your loved ones will largely depend on your own preparedness.

The web page “Kriis.ee” contains tips on how to get prepared for various types of crisis situations and what to do if there actually is one.

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