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92 fall sick after Mumbai gas leak (Third Lead)

Mumbai, June 14 (Calcutta Tube) At least 92 people, many of them students, were taken ill after chlorine gas leaked early Wednesday from a scrapyard in the Mumbai Port Trust (MPT) premises close to a college. Thirteen people are critically ill and 500 have been evacuated, officials said.

According to a fire brigade official, the gas leak was noticed around 3.30 a.m. when people in the area started complaining of burning eyes, breathlessness and nausea.

The source of the leakage was traced to the scrapyard at Hay Bunder adjacent to the Lal Bahadur Shastri Nautical Institute in Sewri, southcentral Mumbai. Panic spread in the area as many people complained of gas effects.

A MPT spokesperson said that 92 people were admitted to various hospitals.

At least 40 are still in hospital and 13 are said to be in critical condition. The remaining 52 people were discharged after basic medical treatment, the official added.

Sir J.J. Hospital Dean T.P. Lahane told IANS: ‘Seven are in a critical state, while the others have minor health complaints. There are no fatal casualties.’

Many of the victims have been admitted to KEM Hospital and the MPT Hospital.

In a preliminary measure, water was sprayed on the gas cylinders from which the gas leaked and police carried out a precautionary evacuation of people living in the vicinity. The officials are procuring caustic soda to neutralise the effects of the gas.

The MPT officials also maintained that there are no fatal casualties in the incident.

The MPT spokeman said the cylinders – totalling 141 – were imported in 1997, but the importers had not taken delivery of the hazardous consignment, which has been lying in the open for nearly 14 years.

Only five cylinders had gas while 136 were empty, the official added.

‘But we are not taking any chances and will check all the cylinders,’ he said.

‘The MPT is also checking records to find out whether any action had been taken for the disposal of the hazardous material in the past. The situation is under control now,’ the official said.

Besides the MPT officials, experts from the Maharashtra Disaster Management Authority, the state-run Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers and the semi-government Century Rayon companies are assisting in the relief operations.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan described the incident as ‘serious’ and suspected that there could be a safety lapse. An official source said that the Prime Minister’s Office has also sought details of the incident.

The union ministry of shipping has also asked the MPT for a detailed report on the incident.

In a statement, the ministry said: ‘These cylinders have been kept in that area which is meant for storage of hazardous goods for the past few years. As per the records of Mumbai Port Trust, the cylinders were empty.’

‘The situation is presently under control, and chairman, deputy chairman, traffic manager and other senior officials of Mumbai Port Trust are at the site, where relief and rescue works are being undertaken,’ it added.

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