250 people fall ill after toxic gas leaks in Bangladesh

SansadTV Bureau

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More than 250 people, including children, have fallen sick after a toxic gas leak from a fertiliser unit in Bangladesh’s Chittagong.

The leakage, which began on Monday night, was finally plugged after firefighters battled until late on Tuesday morning.

Of the nearly 250 taken ill, 56 people, including more than 10 children, were admitted to hospitals in the city. All those being treated were stated out of danger.

Officials had to evacuate hundreds of residents from the area to prevent others from falling sick as the gas quickly spread across large parts of the city.

Authorities said di-ammonium phosphate (DPA) had leaked from the DAP Fertiliser Company Limited, situated on the bank of Karnaphuli river.

Reports said one of the gas tanks with 500 tonne capacity leaked at around 11:30 PM on Monday night.

Strong winds blew the gas across a 10-kilometre radius and reports suggested that people felt breathing problems at the southern city’s international airport.

“The gas spread from the unit causing breathing problems to the people across several kilometres,” officer-in-charge of a nearby police station said.

“Several people reported to doctors just because of panic,” city’s civil surgeon Azizur Rahman Siddique said.

The reason behind the leak could not be known immediately.

Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC), which runs the unit, formed a 10-member committee to investigate the incident, while the district administration has formed a three-member panel to probe the leak.

At the time of the incident, the amount of ammonia in the air was recorded at 600ppm (parts per million) while workers at the factory can tolerate conditions with ammonia gas up to 25ppm, the environment department said.

Experts said exposure to ammonia could cause slackening, vomiting and breathing problems.

“I have been informed that the fire service men nearly brought under control the situation,” Chittagong’s deputy commissioner Mesbahuddin Ahmed said.

(With inputs from agencies)