Tension prevailed in Kasimedu for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon following the leak of ammonia from an ice manufacturing unit.
Satheeshkumar, whose parents run a small shop near the ice factory, said he saw smoke around 3 p.m. but thought it was from another unit.
By 3.30 p.m., people ran out of their homes coughing and teary eyed. “Those who went near the unit could not breathe. We even saw people throwing up,” he said.
Initially, it was thought to be a crude oil leak from one of the pipelines running through the fishing harbour and people hurried to the place carrying pots and pans to scoop up the liquid.
M.D. Dayalan of the Indian Fishermen Association said the incident underlined the need for a fire station inside the fishing harbour. “The government must conduct a medical camp on Sunday in the area to ensure that nobody has come to any harm,” he said.
Officials of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board rushed to the spot.
Sources said the unit had been shut down and the leak had happened during cleaning.
An officer from Fire and Rescue Services said, “Public alerted us as if it was LPG leak at around 3.30 p.m. Immediately after getting the information, our personnel from fire stations in Royapuram, Tondiarpet and High Court were rushed to the spot. It turned out to be a minor ammonia leak from an ice factory. Immediately, we fixed the leak and did cooling process.”
Senior police officials remained at the spot till the situation was brought under control.