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Toxic Cloud Covers Downtown Buenos Aires From Container Fire

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Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- A toxic cloud covered downtown Buenos Aires, forcing the evacuation of some buildings, after a fire broke out in a container loaded with pesticide in the city’s port, delaying flights and public transport.

The fire, which began this morning and caused a chemical reaction between its contents, has been extinguished, Sergio Berni, the national security secretary, told reporters today in Buenos Aires.

“The pesticide presents a low level of danger and affects the respiratory tract,” Berni said.

People should stay inside buildings with windows and doors closed if they can’t leave the area quickly, the city’s Civil Defense chief Daniel Russo said an interview with CN23 television channel. Argentina’s Health Ministry said in an e-mailed statement that the container had a pesticide called thiodicarb, a product of “low toxicity.” Russo had earlier in the morning said that the toxic cloud was caused by mercury.

Pedestrians in the city center covered their faces with masks and handkerchiefs as the fumes caused tearing and vomiting. Some subway and train services were canceled, a railway terminal and streets near the port closed, Todo Noticias television channel reported. The subways resumed normal activities as of 2:53 p.m. local time. A cruise ship in the port was evacuated.

The rains in the city this morning have prevented the toxic cloud from expanding, Gabriel Ive, national director of sanitary emergency at the Health Ministry, said in a telephone interview. He said people should wash their clothes that have been in contact with the rains.

“There has been an increase in the number of people who went to hospitals suffering from the symptoms,” Ive said. “None of them have been of severity.”

Trading on the Buenos Aires stock exchange started as normal at 11 a.m. local time. Stocks in the benchmark Merval index fell 1.14 percent to 2,441.93 at 3:36 p.m. in Buenos Aires, the biggest drop in two weeks.

To contact the reporters on this story: Pablo Gonzalez in Buenos Aires at pgonzalez49@bloomberg.net; Camila Russo in Buenos Aires at crusso15@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net

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