Five people died on Sept. 27 in an explosion at the Hube Global plant in the Gumi National Industrial Complex in North Gyeongsang Province.
The blast was caused by a leak of hydrofluoric acid that also devastated the nearby forest. Hydrofluoric acid is highly toxic substance that is used for heavy-duty cleaning such as removing rust.
The damage from the blast is spreading across nearby villages. The Gumi municipal government sent 563 local residents, firemen and police officers involved in the cleanup operation to hospital for checks. Most of them were suffering from headache, congestion and skin rashes.
Some firemen who were on the site of the explosion for an extended period complained of whole-body skin rashes and difficulty breathing.
Substantial damage has been done to farming and livestock. Some 180 households who farm on 91.2 ha of land reported withering of grapes, melons, dates and rice. Some 812 cows, 500 dogs and a horse show unusual symptoms such as runny noses and coughing.
Local residents want the authorities to carry out a thorough epidemiologic investigation and evacuate them from the area.