Six people have died and 12 others hospitalised after a suspected leak at a poultry plant, police have said.
Five people died at the Foundation Food Group plant in Gainesville, Georgia, and one person died after arriving at hospital.
It’s believed a liquid nitrogen leak at the poultry facility, around 60 miles north east of Atlanta, lead to the casaulties.
Nicholas Ancrum, a spokesperson for the group said a nitrogen line had burst and the cause was under investigation.
“All these folks who came to work today didn’t expect
something like this, so please keep them in your prayers,” County Sheriff Gerald Couch said.
Bodies have been removed from the plant and authorities are working to identify them and notifying their families, Couch added.
Of the 12 injured, three were in critical condition, five were listed in fair condition and the remaining three have now been released from hospital, officials confirmed.
Nitrogen, typically an inert gas that transforms into liquid when supercooled, is used in frozen food processing plants.
However, liquid nitrogen gas released in a confined space can rapidly displace oxygen in the air and lungs.
It can lead to unconsciousness and lethal asphyxiation, according to the University of Delaware.
In December, two workers at a Golden West Food Group plant in LA county, lose consciousness and died following a suspected liquid nitrogen leak, according to LA County Fire crews.
Four firefighters were also injured in the suspected leak on Thursday, suffering respiratory ailments.
130 people have been evacuated to a nearby church, officials have said.
The Foundation Food Group plant processes raw chicken into products like frozen chicken tenders and individual chicken cuts for restaurants and food service operations.
It was known as Prime Pak Foods until the start of the year, when its name was changed under a merger between the two companies.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said on Twitter that he and his family are heartbroken over the news, and asked for all Georgians to pray for the families of the victims.
“May God be a hand of peace, comfort, and healing in the days ahead,” he wrote.