Claresholm ammonia leak spurs emergency alert, threat of evacuation

The Town of Claresholm has declared a local state of emergency and residents are being warned to prepare for possible evacuation after an ammonia leak.

The leak originated in a business at 1 Alberta Road, which houses El Molino Foods of Canada Ltd.

Residents are urged to avoid the area and listen for further updates.

The Town of Claresholm reports that someone at El Monlino Foods called 911 at 12:45 p.m. to report the leak in the building, which is in a primarily commercial area. Shortly after 2 p.m., the town declared a state of emergency, warning residents to prepare for possible evacuation.

The Claresholm Fire Department evacuated all staff from the building and created an isolation zone. The Hazmat team came in from the Lethbridge Fire Department, and several businesses in the area were evacuated.

Ammonia is often used in refrigeration units but is highly flammable and toxic if leaked. Exposure to gaseous ammonia damages the lungs and can result in death.

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El Molino Foods moved into the 40,000-square-foot production facility in 2009. The company manufactures El Molino tortilla chips and other Mexican and Italian foods, and the facility also houses Bear Creek Foods, Del Comal Foods and Mamma Mia brands. Bear Creek Foods supplies "value-added frozen food products," according to the El Molino website.

Claresholm is about 130 kilometres south of Calgary.

More to come ...