A chlorine gas leak at an Apple data center has landed five people in hospital.
Emergency crews received a call about 2pm local time from the Apple facility on Startown Road, in Maiden, North Carolina. Local news helicopters captured footage of people being given medical attention and oxygen masks outside the facility.
The Catawba emergency services said initially two unknown chemicals were involved in the alert, later stating that it was a chlorine gas leak.
Chlorine can be stored as a liquid when cooled, but will quickly turn into a gas if released into the air. The gas attacks people's respiratory systems: it is much denser than air, and dissolves the mucous membrane, which can cause fluid to build up. If that fluid is inhaled, it can cause someone to suffocate, similar to drowning. Even low levels can cause shortness of breath.
It is speculated that the chlorine was a key component in the facility's water-cleaning facility, perhaps for its water-cooled components.
The five have been moved to the nearby Catawba Valley Medical Center. The medical center and Apple's facility have yet to return calls seeking more information.
The Maiden facility is Apple's largest data center on the East Coast, and at 505,000 square feet it is one of the largest in the world. Last year, the iCloud giant said it intended to invest over $1bn over the next 10 years on the 183-acre site. The California-headquartered biz plans to build a second data center of roughly the same size right next door.
The site has been used by Apple to highlight its green credentials: it was the first large-scale data center to be given the green LEED Platinum certification. Most of the energy used at the facility comes from solar arrays in a vast 40MW, 200-acre installation on the same site. The energy shortfall is made up from fuel cells that will use biogas from nearby landfills to generate electricity and purchasing renewable energy from local sources, according to Apple. ®