Over 100 police personnel entrusted with the security for the annual Velankanni festival took ill in the wee hours of Sunday after consuming food supplied by the church.

Preliminary enquiries indicated that it could have been a case of food poisoning caused by hyper-chlorinated water.

The personnel, including men from the Tamil Nadu Special Police Force, Reserve Police Force, Home Guards, and Fire and Rescue Services, were lodged in the St. Arockya Matha Higher Secondary School in Velankanni to provide security for the nine-day festivities of Velankanni Basilica that commenced on August 29.

According to a health official, the men were served with dinner consisting of pongal and dosas on Saturday night. In the small hours of Sunday, over 107 personnel from the Nagapattinam police force, Tamil Nadu Special Police battalion, RPF, Home Guards reported vomiting and dysentery. They were admitted to the Nagapattinam Government Hospital, Velankanni church hospital, and the Velankanni PHC. They were later discharged.

Speaking to The Hindu, the health official, who did not want to be quoted, said the Basilica administration was serving food for pilgrims from three church canteens here and no such cases of food poisoning were reported from these places. The food was cooked within the school premises. “We have collected 18 samples of food items from various places in Velankanni even before the commencement of the festival for testing. Now, after this incident, three different water samples have been sent for testing,” he said.

Superintendent of Police Sibi Chakravarthy said a chart of food items was taken up for a preliminary study.

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