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Tragic Methane Poisoning Claims Four Lives

methane gas poisoning

A tragic gas poisoning incident occurred in Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya where four individuals lost their lives due to the accidental release of toxic gas during an unauthorised excavation. 

The victims included three individuals who were initially involved in the digging operation and a barangay council member who attempted to rescue them.

Victims Identified

The deceased were identified as Dionisio Alisen, 62, Jeremias Padilla, 64, and Selvino Mendoza, 63. These men were reportedly treasure hunters digging a tunnel when they encountered methane gas, which led to their deaths. Marlon Orden, 38, a barangay council member, also perished after entering the tunnel in an effort to save the trapped men.

Rescue Attempts

During the rescue efforts, Marlon Siopon, 32, also entered the tunnel to assist Orden but was overcome by the gas and lost consciousness. Fortunately, Siopon was pulled out by other villagers and survived. Emergency services, including the Didipio Mine rescue team, the Bureau of Fire Protection, and local authorities, were quickly mobilised to retrieve the bodies and manage the situation.

Circumstances of the Accident

The tragic event unfolded as the group was digging a tunnel, likely in search of treasure or valuable minerals. Methane gas, which is often found in underground spaces, accumulated in the tunnel and caused the victims to suffocate. The hazardous nature of such unregulated excavations highlights the risks involved and the potential for deadly outcomes.

Characteristics of Methane Gas

Methane (CH₄) is a colourless, odourless gas that is highly flammable and can form explosive mixtures with air. It is the primary component of natural gas and is produced naturally through the anaerobic decomposition of organic matter. In nature, methane is found in wetlands, coal mines, and as a byproduct of certain industrial processes. Commercially, an odorant is often added to methane to aid in leak detection due to its otherwise undetectable nature.

Health Risks of Methane Exposure

Methane exposure primarily poses an asphyxiation risk. It displaces oxygen in the air, leading to symptoms ranging from dizziness and nausea to loss of consciousness and death. While methane itself is not toxic, its ability to create an oxygen-deficient environment is what makes it dangerous.

Symptoms of Methane Poisoning

Symptoms of methane poisoning vary depending on the level of exposure. Mild exposure can result in rapid breathing, increased heart rate, clumsiness, dizziness, and decreased alertness. With moderate exposure, symptoms can escalate to include nausea, vomiting, fainting, and collapse. In cases of severe exposure, the consequences can be even more dire, potentially leading to coma and death. Additionally, long-term exposure to low levels of methane can result in lasting neurological and cardiovascular issues. 

Responding to Methane Gas Poisoning

Immediate response to methane exposure involves removing affected individuals from the contaminated area to fresh air. Rescuers must use proper protective equipment to avoid exposure themselves. Administering oxygen, CPR, or using a defibrillator may be necessary until medical help arrives.

Response from Authorities

Local authorities emphasised the importance of adhering to safety protocols and obtaining proper permits for any form of excavation. The incident has sparked a discussion on the need for stricter regulations and more robust safety measures to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

Community Impact

The deaths have deeply affected the local community, bringing to light the dangers faced by those engaging in unauthorized digging activities. The community mourns the loss of their members and calls for increased awareness and education on the risks of gas poisoning.

Conclusion

This incident also underscores the critical need for safety and regulation in excavation activities. The swift response by local rescue teams was crucial, but the tragedy highlights the importance of preventive measures to avoid such occurrences. Therefore, the community and authorities must work together to ensure such incidents do not happen again.

Photo Credit: Victor Martin

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