Truck transporting the chemical meets with an accident

The leakage of anhydrous ammonia while in transit on the Kolkata-Chennai National Highway-5 near Asram Medical College on the city outskirts triggered panic. The liquid-turned gas kept gushing out when the lids of the three out of four chambers of the tanker containing the chemical opened up following an accident involving a truck in which it was being transported. It all started at 8 p.m. on Sunday and lasted till 1-30 p.m. on Monday.

The container got detached from the truck and fell sideways across the highway after the vehicle hit the divider while overtaking a stationary APSRTC bus.

Soon, ammonia in liquid form under pressurised condition in the tanker turned into gas with the leakage that went on for nearly 20 hours, keeping on toes personnel from the National Disaster Response Force, Fire Services, police, and the Department of Factories.

The substance was being transported from Gujarat State Fertilizers Corporation at Baroda to a private plant in Srikakulam district for conversion into ammonium nitrate for use to manufacture explosives.

“We could not prevent leakage of gas but could avert a major catastrophe,” said West Godavari district Superintendent of Police M. Ramesh.

There were no casualties and city DSP M. Rajani attributed it to the accident occurring far away from human habitations.

D. Ravindranath, Executive Engineer of the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board, said the vehicle was carrying 15 tonnes of ammonia.

Traffic jam

The accident led to a huge pile-up of traffic -- from Hanuman Junction in Krishna district to Unguruturu in West Godavari district. Movement of people was restricted within a radius of three km on both sides from the place of accident as a measure of precaution. Eight fire tenders were deployed from Krishna, East and West Godavari districts.