Over 300 persons, including women and children, were admitted to the Government General Hospital (GH) here after they inhaled chlorine gas that leaked from a private factory in Kalapet on Wednesday morning, district officials said.
The factory, belonging to Chemfab Alkalis Limited, which manufactures several products including liquid chlorine and caustic soda lye, has since been closed following an order issued by the District Collector, G. Rajesh Chandra.
The patients, belonging mainly to the Pudunagar village near Kalapet, were rushed to the hospital after they complained of breathlessness, nausea and burning sensation in the throat. None of the persons was “serious,” Medical Superintendent Govindaraj said.
According to the Collector, the incident took place around 7.30 am. Though the actual leak was only for “about two minutes,” strong gusts of wind carried the gas to the village, where a number of persons fell ill, he said. Several affected first went to the Primary Health Centre (PHC) in Kalapet where they were referred to the GH. Ambulances were arranged to transport them from the PHC.
Special Secretary to Government (Environment) Theva Neethi Dhas said the factory was closed down after the incident under the provisions of the Environment Protection Act. He said that taking notice of the fact that several important landmarks, including the Pondicherry Central University and the Pondicherry Engineering College, were in the vicinity of the factory, the management had earlier been asked by the environment department to prepare a detailed off-site emergency plan.
Though the factory was served notices thrice since June 2009 to formulate the plan, it had failed to do so. This was followed by the rejection of an application filed by the company for expansion, he said. He added that apart from the magisterial and technical enquiry into the leak, the company would be asked to undertake a “multi-layered risk analysis of natural and man-made hazards, including domino effects.”
Earlier, Chief Minister V. Vaithilingam visited the hospital and enquired about the conditions of the patients.