Mumbai Local

Dombivli chemical factory blast: NDRF allays poisonous gas fears

THE DAY AFTER:A Fire Brigade official directs operations at the site of the explosion in Dombivli on Friday; rescue workers sift through the rubble—Photos: Levin Raju  

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) officials said on Friday that there was no risk of poisonous gases spreading in Dombivli and causing further harm to locals, as the chemical found inside the ill-fated factory is only harmful if touched, ingested or inhaled directly.

The explosion inside the Probace Chemicals factory, which killed 11 people and left more than 100 injured on Thursday, had given rise to several rumours, one of which was that the explosion had polluted the air with poisonous gases.

“The factory contained containers of propargyl alcohol, a liquid chemical which is toxic if ingested or inhaled and causes corrosion if it comes into contact with human skin. However, it does not spread toxic components in the air if it burns,” Commandant Anupam Srivastava, who heads the NDRF battalion in Pune, said. A team of 45 NDRF personnel has been working in collaboration with local authorities in Dombivli since Thursday.

The cause of the explosion, however, is still a mystery. While propargyl alcohol burns when it comes into contact with fire, it is not volatile enough to cause an explosion. It caused a fire immediately after the explosion, but rescue operations picked up speed after the fire was brought under control.

“The debris had heated up due to the fire, but not to the extent that it could not be cleared using machines. However, there was a very large amount of debris that had to be cleared and we also had to keep the locals, who were gathering at the spot, at bay. The clearing of the debris is 90 per cent complete and the operation is expected to end by Friday night,” Mr. Srivastava said. He added that the factory is completely reduced to rubble and all that is left of it is a crater 25 feet in diameter.

The fears of a poisonous gas affecting continued till late on Friday due to rumours. “A lot of us were afraid to stay in our houses on Friday and preferred to stay away. There are a lot of people here who are talking about poisonous gas leaks and we don’t know who to believe,” said local resident Raju Nalawade.

On Friday, a panchnama of buildings whose window panes were shattered due to the blast was carried out to gauge the extent of damage and compensation. Locals, meanwhile, insisted that chemical factories be moved out of the area. “The area was cordoned off throughout the day, so nobody could see what was going on. However, this unfortunate incident is a real eye-opener for the administration in Dombivli. We hope that all these dangerous chemical factories will be moved out,” said Madhukar Bele, a resident.

According to the police, the incident occurred around 11.45 a.m. in a plant owned by the Acharya Chemicals group in Dombivili (east), which manufactures industrial chemicals. The complex also has a laboratory, Herbert Brown Pharmaceutical and Research Laboratory.

The police and the fire brigade have initiated a probe into the cause of the explosion.

The explosion was so powerful that window panes in buildings located as far away as a km from the site were shattered.

The blast has forced the government to consider shifting hazardous industries out of inhabited areas. Thane’s Guardian Minister Eknath Shinde, who visited the site of the chemical factory blast on Thursday, said steps will be taken to shift factories to avoid similar tragedies.

Chemical industries in Dombivali are likely to be shut down for a week to carry out an inspection and combing operation to ascertain implementation of various safety and security measures.

While propargyl alcohol burns when it comes into contact with fire, it is not volatile enough to cause an explosion

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 5:38:34 AM |

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