Sulfuric acid cloud causes breathing troubles in Germany

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Sulfuric acid leaks out of a tank in Oberhausen, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 16 2017. The tank containing the acid on the premises of a chemical company started leaking on Thursday morning. (ANC news/dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — About 150 people suffered breathing problems Thursday after sulfuric acid spilled from a burst tank belonging to a chemical company in the western German city of Oberhausen and turned into a toxic cloud.

About 130 firefighters and emergency staff treated most people on the scene. Five people had to be taken to the hospital.

The spill was caused when a ship accidentally pumped hydrochloric acid into a tank containing sulfuric acid causing the tank to burst, the German news agency dpa reported.

Firefighters' spokesman Joerg Preussner said that most people had only light breathing troubles, but that everyone in the area had been asked to stay inside and close the windows.

Train and bus lines were stopped for hours, and city streets, a canal and a highway were temporarily shut down to keep people away from the area. All schools and kindergartens were ordered to keep children inside the buildings until the early afternoon.

The visible cloud, which slowly moved to the northeast of the city, was several hundred meters (yards) wide.

Preussner said that firefighters had used water cannons and successfully fought the cloud with water mist.

The burst tank was pumped empty and the toxic mixture was taken away by tanker trucks.