VISAKHAPATNAM: A day after the gas leak at the Brandix India Apparel Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Atchyutapuram of Anakapalle district, the pollution control board officials are yet to identify the gas and confirm the source of the leak.
As many as 178 employees of an apparel unit in the SEZ were rushed to hospitals in Anakapalle and Vizag after a gas, suspected to be ammonia, leaked on Friday.
Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) District Environmental Engineer Pramod Kumar Reddy said, "We still don’t know if the gas that leaked was ammonia. It will take us at least a week to accurately ascertain the source of the leak and identify the gas."
Stating that there are also chances that source of the leak would never be found, Kumar explained that the emission lasted for approximately three minutes. "The quantity of the emission was also less when we checked the meter readings," he said.
The PCB official suspected that the gas might have either leaked from the AC unit at Seed Intimate Apparel unit or the Effluent Treatment Plant and not from any other neighbouring industry. "We can come to a conclusion only after a detailed investigation," the PCB official added.
He also opined that Brandix SEZ doesn't require any smart alerting system as all their units, except two, fall under the green category. Asked whether the SEZ had a siren or any smart alerting system in place to alert workers regarding such incidents, an official from Brandix, who did not want to be named, told The New Indian Express that they cannot “predict anything sometimes.”
"It's the first time such an incident has occurred at the unit. We will take precautionary measures to ensure such incidents don't recur. We evacuated everyone from the unit as and when we sensed something wrong," the official asserted.
Atchyutapuram sub-inspector D Upendra said, "We are working on finding out what exactly happened at Brandix, along with the officials of the Department of Factories, AP Pollution Control Board and Revenue Department. A report in this regard will be submitted to the district administration as soon as we identify the cause of the incident."
Victims of gas leak recall the incident
"I was so stressed I had an anxiety attack. I tried to cover my face with my palms after the air started to smell odd, hoping I won’t inhale much of it," Santhoshi, an employee of the apparel unit admitted to King George Hospital in Visakhapatnam, told The New Indian Express.
She is among the three patients currently undergoing treatment at the King George Hospital in Visakhapatnam. Santhoshi said, the incident has taken an emotional toll, too, on those who were exposed to the gas.The three women admitted at the KGH could only recollect the abrupt change in the air and the uncertainty that hit them at the moment.
Lakshmi, mother of one of the three victims, expressed apprehension over sending her daughter back to work at the SEZ. "I have my doubts regarding the safety at the unit," she said. At least 1,800 employees at the apparel unit had to be evacuated after the gas leak, leaving them and their families a bundle of nerves.
Ruling out earlier reports which said a total of eight victims were admitted to the KGH following the gas leak, hospital superintendent Dr Mythili said only three are getting treated in the isolation ward at present.
Dr Manoj, a neurologist who was assessing the condition of the patients when The New Indian Express visited the hospital, maintained that their health condition, including SpO2 (oxygen saturation) levels, was stable. He added the patients are recovering well on oxygen support.
"Their primary complaints are nausea, breathlessness, and headache. One of the three also complained of stomachache and difficulty in swallowing at times. We are closely monitoring their condition, but we can confirm they are out of danger. The three patients will be completely fine in a few days," the doctor said.