More than 100 students and four teachers from Chavara Government Boys Higher Secondary School and Chavara Government Girls Higher Secondary School were hospitalised following a gas leak at Chavara, near here, on Friday morning.
While the local people alleged that the gas leaked from the complex of the public sector Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd. (KMML), company authorities denied the charge.
District Collector P.G. Thomas, who inspected the site, said no final conclusion had been reached on what exactly was the gas and from where it leaked.
Mr. Thomas said the Joint Director of the Factories and Boilers Department and the Environment Engineer of the Kerala State Pollution Control Board would conduct an inquiry and submit a report by Sunday.
The police said those affected by the gas leak were admitted to five hospitals. Four persons in a critical condition were admitted to the District Hospital. By evening, doctors from these hospitals reported that those admitted were out of danger.
Meanwhile, environmental activists said the incident exposed some serious chinks in disaster management. Soon after classes began, a few students showed symptoms of inhaling a poisonous gas as they turned giddy, started vomiting, and showed signs of profuse tear flow.
School authorities immediately contacted the KMML authorities to verify whether there was a gas leak, which the latter denied.
By 11 a.m., when more and more students showed uneasiness, some even swooned, the school authorities began to rush the affected to hospitals.
Lack of ambulances
As sufficient number of ambulances and suitable vehicles were not available, five to six students had to be transported at a time in a couple of ambulances. The others had to stay back on the campus till the vehicles returned.
Medication for the victims also created confusion. As chlorine had leaked from the KMML during a couple of occasions, hospital authorities took it for granted that the victims had inhaled chlorine and treatment for chorine gas inhalation was provided.
Later, there were reports that hydrogen sulphide had leaked and treatment began to be provided accordingly.
Revenue Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, accompanied by the Collector, called on the victims at the hospitals.
The Minister said financial assistance for medical treatment would be provided to the victims.