Three die in Uttar Pradesh gas leak, factory owner booked (Third Lead)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

HARDOI/LUCKNOW - Three people, including a woman, died and seven others were hospitalised following a gas leak at a chemical factory in Hardoi district, officials said Saturday. A magisterial inquiry has been ordered and a criminal case has been registered against the factory owner who is absconding.

The gas has been identified as phosgene.

A compensation of Rs.2.20 lakh has been announced for the families of each of the deceased.

The gas leakage from Amit Hetro Chem factory of B.N. Lal in Sandila town is believed to have taken place early Saturday. The factory has been sealed and its adjoining areas have been evacuated by police as a precautionary measure.

“Tests carried out by the technical team suggest it was phosgene gas. All the three, who died following the leak, were sleeping in a flour mill situated a few metres away from the factory,” Hardoi District Magistrate Awadhesh Kumar Singh Rathore told IANS.

“While a magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the case, a four-member committee has also been constituted to probe whether procedures were being followed by the owners of the factory,” he added.

Rathore has asked the committee to submit its report within seven days.

“Whether the factory had a valid licence or norms related to safety were being followed and several such aspects will be probed by the four-member committee that would be headed by additional district magistrate,” Rathore said in Hardoi, some 110 km from Lucknow.

“We have been told that chemicals used in medicines were manufactured in the factory,” Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Santosh Kumar told IANS.

“We have detained a chemist of the factory in connection with the incident. He is being interrogated,” he added.

Experts of the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR), Lucknow, believe that improper functioning of the water treatment plant in the factory may have triggered the gas leakage.

“Phosgene gets neutralized when it comes in contact with water. It appears the water treatment plant of the factor was having some problems, and therefore the gas could not get treated and people died after inhaling it,” said a scientist at the IITR.

“Phosgene is heavier than air and tends to come down if its by-products carbon monoxide and hydrogen chloride gases are not formed,” he added.

Hardoi’s Superintendent of Police Luv Kumar told IANS: “On the complaint made by the family members of the deceased, we have filed a case under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code, including section 304 (causing death by negligence) and section 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) against the factory owner.”

Meanwhile, locals in Sandila town alleged that many residents had died due to gas leakages from the factory in the past as well, but no action was taken.

“I have also been informed about it. But as of now, I cannot say anything with confirmation. I have sought records and documents in this regard,” said Rathore.

Locals said panic gripped the area after people complained of irritation in eyes and skin.

“Some of us started experiencing it at around midnight, and thereafter we started washing our eyes and the body parts. It was only in the early morning we came to know that the irritation was because of the gas leak,” said Pammu Kushwaha, a resident of the area.

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