Multiple people are dead after a crash involving several vehicles and a semi-truck carrying anhydrous ammonia led to a toxic leak and a subsequent evacuation in south central Illinois Friday, according to police.
Illinois State Police were notified of a crash on U.S. Highway 40 about half a mile east of Teutopolis in Effingham County at around 9:25 p.m. C.T. The semi-truck carrying anhydrous ammonia began leaking after rolling over in a ditch, officials said.
Anhydrous ammonia is a flammable, “colorless, highly irritating gas with a pungent, suffocating odor,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If humans come in contact with the gas, it can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and respiratory tract, leading to swelling and narrowing of the throat, coughing and “an accumulation of fluid in the lungs.”
A hazmat team arrived on scene and was able to slow down the leak but not completely stop it.
“Due to the plume from the ammonia leak, people within an approximate one mile radius of the crash on U.S. Highway 40, including northeastern parts of Teutopolis, have been evacuated,” Illinois State Police said in a statement. A timeline has not been given for the evacuation.
A total of six people were taken to hospitals, police said. Police did not clarify how many people have died, and if the deaths were a result of the crash or the leak.
The U.S. Highway 40 between Teutopolis and Montrose is closed and the cause of the crash remains under investigation.
Illinois State Police are asking the public to avoid the area of the leak.
“Crews are working to contain the leak while first responders and emergency workers continue to respond to the incident,” police said.