Officials went on high alert on Wednesday following a leak of medical oxygen at Famagusta General Hospital, with officials saying the incident was serious due to high risk of explosion.
According to local media, the cryogenic liquid began leaking from an outdoor medical-grade oxygen bulk storage tank at Famagusta General on Wednesday early morning around 5:30am.
Police officers and nurses helped patients evacuate their rooms as a precaution while additional medical staff remained outside in a different area
The Fire Department was immediately notified with a fire truck and two additional vehicles rushing to the hospital, while police also arrived and cordoned off the area. The capacity of the storage tank was said to be 2300 litres (over 600 liquid gallons).
Reports said both police officers and nurses helped patients evacuate their rooms as a precaution while additional medical staff remained outside in a different area. Later reports said patients had gathered near the reception desk.
Liquid oxygen is approximately four times heavier than air and spreads along the floor or ground when spilled. Soon after leakage or spillage, liquid oxygen boils away into a gas, causing real concerns rather quickly due to the risk of fuel or ignition sources near the spill.
Fire department spokesperson Andreas Kettis said the leak was a “serious incident” while also clarifying first responders took appropriate measures to contain the leakage without delay.
“Even a single spark could have caused an explosion,” Kettis admitted.
But the official added there was no cause for alarm as the leak had been contained. When asked by a reporter on state radio, the spokesperson explained that fire fighters had “stopped the leak completely.”
According to a statement on the Fire Department Facebook page, there was no reason for concern regarding patients or medical staff at the hospital.
State engineers and the Fire Department are said to be conducting an investigation into what caused the incident.