A sudden power outage at the plant led to the gas leakage, sources say

Tension prevailed in northern parts of the city following an ammonia gas leakage from the Madras Fertilizers Limited (MFL) at Manali on Saturday.

The plant, a public sector undertaking, was shut down, with operation suspended until further notice.

A sudden power shutdown at the plant, sources in the MFL said, led to the gas leakage as the generator, which is a support system during power shutdowns, failed to work. Further, the thick atmosphere and rains made it difficult for the ammonia gas to evaporate through the more than half a dozen chimneys located in the plant premises.

“The gas remained within the vicinity of the plant that is surrounded by residential colonies. The gas was strong, so residents got scared and experienced irritation,” said an official of the MFL.       

It was around 9 a.m., when residents of areas surrounding the plant — including Ambedkar Nagar, Vimalapuram and Kamaraj Salai — felt the effects of the leakage. Many residents, especially children and woman, experienced eye and skin irritation.

“The leakages are recurring. Many residents have been facing irritation for a very long time. Safety measures should be taken to end the problem permanently,” said K. Satish, a resident of Manali.

A team of revenue officials from the Ambattur revenue division led by the revenue division officer, Shanmugam, and officials of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) inspected the plant site. The team also submitted a report to the Tiruvallur district collector about the incident and the safety measures that need to be taken to prevent such incidents in future.

Spread over 329 acres and surrounded by congested residential areas, the MFL, which is under the control of the department of fertilizers of ministry of chemicals and fertilizers, was commissioned in 1971. It is engaged in the manufacture of ammonia, urea, complex fertilizers and bio-fertilizers.  

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