New Delhi, India — Yellow-green clouds of chlorine gas spewed from a chemical tank at a strikebound factory in the port city of Bombay Friday, killing one person and hospitalizing at least 118 others, the Press Trust of India said.
It was India’s worst chemical leak since Dec. 23, when deadly methyl isocyanate poured from a U.S .owned Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal injuring 200,000 others.
Friday’s chlorine leak, lasting four hours, originated in a storage tank at the chemical and plastics division of Calico Mills, a domestically owned firm in the northeastern suburb of Chamber, the domestic news agency said. The plant had been closed since May because of a strike by employees. The leak occurred just as a union meeting involving 800 workers was starting at the factory’s front gates.
“As columns of chlorine filled the air, people ran out of their homes onto the streets, with eye and throat irritations. Some of them vomited,” said the Press Trust, quoting police and firefighters.
The news of those affected by the gas remained in serious condition, said Dr. H. L. Dhar, acting dean of Sion Hospital, where most of the victims were taken.
The injured included local residents and striking plant workers. Also sickened were 16 firefighters, 12 policemen and a doctor and nurse who took part in rescue operations.
The fatality was identified as B.I. Muzumdar, a clerk at the Calico facility.
Firefighters finally controlled the leak, nearly four hours after it began, by cooling a 30-ton capacity caustic soda tank to neutralize the gas. The Press Trust said the fumes began leaking again a short while later, but the new leak was plugged in 15 minutes.
The remaining gas in the tank continued through the night.
Article extracted from this publication >> September 6, 1985