Authorities say multiple deaths have been confirmed following an accident involving a semi truck that leaked anhydrous ammonia in Effingham County, Illinois.
Parts of Teutopolis were evacuated “due to an ammonia leak” after Friday night’s crash on U.S. Highway 40, about a half-mile east of Teutopolis, Illinois State Police said.
Emergency crews were still working to contain the spill Saturday morning, State Police Chief Public Information Officer Melanie Arnold said in an email.
Just before 5 p.m., a separate crash occurred on Interstate 70 east of Effingham, causing traffic to be diverted to US Highway 40.
Around 9:25 p.m., ISP was notified of a “multiple vehicle accident, including a semi truck leaking anhydrous ammonia” on the highway, police said.
Police said people within a 1-mile radius of the crash, including areas northeast of Teutopolis, were later evacuated.
The evacuation order continued early Saturday morning and shelters were set up for the victims.
Anhydrous ammonia is “essentially pure (greater than 99 percent) ammonia,” according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “‘Waterless’ is a Greek word meaning ‘without water;’ Hence, anhydrous ammonia in anhydrous ammonia.
Ammonia used in homes is a dilute aqueous solution containing 5 to 10 percent ammonia, according to OSHA.
Ammonia in high concentrations can irritate and burn the skin, mouth, throat, lungs, and eyes Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Very high doses can damage the lungs or cause death.
Symptoms of anhydrous ammonia exposure include difficulty breathing; eye, nose or throat irritation; and burns or blisters.
Effingham County has an estimated population of about 34,000 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and is located approximately two hours south of Springfield, the capital of Illinois.