Many children, elders suffer from breathing difficulty

Thousands of residents in Ariyamangalam area endured a torrid time since Tuesday afternoon as smoke billowing from the smouldering embers of the Tiruchirapalli City Corporation garbage dump enveloped their colonies.

The wild fire ravaged huge mounds of garbage on 20 acres at the 40-acre garbage dump. Although the Fire and Rescue Services brought the raging fire under control by Wednesday morning, dense smoke hampered the operation.

A thick cloud of white smoke hung over several colonies, disrupting life on Wednesday. Thousands of residents in colonies off the Ambikapuram Road and others situated close to the dump, including Jaganathapuram, Anna Nagar, Venkateswara Nagar, Nehruji Nagar, and Thideer Nagar, bore the brunt. People had to commute in the area with their faces covered with a handkerchief even as the visibility was poor. Strong winds blew the the smoke up to a distance of about four to five km and the Tiruchi-Thanjavur National Highway.

While young children and senior citizens moved out of their houses temporarily, most others were forced to remain indoors with doors and windows shut.

Over 75 fire-fighters braved the heat, smoke and stench to bring the fire under control and most of them were still working on Thursday evening to extinguish the embers deep below the garbage mounds standing 30 to 40 feet high. Excavators were used to churn the garbage so that they could be fully made wet to ensure that that the fire was completely extinguished. The operation is likely to continue on Thursday also. “The fire has been brought under control though we are still working on fully dousing the embers,” said Syed Mohamed Shah, Divisional Fire Officer, Tiruchi, who supervised the fire fighting operation. The massive scale of the fire this time left the residents seething with anger as official towards apathy towards their long-pending demand to shift out the garbage dump has made their lives miserable every summer due to the frequent fires at the garbage dump.

Most residents complained of incessant coughing, wheezing and irritation in eyes. “We cannot even eat amidst the smoke. The strong wind has only aggravated the situation. Children and the old are the worst affected; many of them are experiencing difficulty in breathing. We have been suffering almost every summer and our repeated pleas have fallen on deaf ears. They are dumping more garbage instead,” said Hyder Ali, who resides and works in Anna Nagar.

“It is suffocating out here and we could not even sleep properly on Tuesday. The smoke and stench are unbearable. This has become a regular occurrence every year and on many previous occasions we had moved to our relatives’ houses. But this time, I had to stay back because of some pressing work,” said Mary of Louis Nagar.

The fire has triggered a public outcry with political parties and welfare organisations calling for immediate steps to find a permanent solution to the problem, with some suggesting that the dump be shifted to the corporation’s sewage farm at Panchapur on the Tiruchi-Madurai National Highway.