Chennai: As many as 42 persons were hospitalised after Ammonia gas leaked from an underwater supply pipeline of a fertiliser manufacturing unit in Ennore in north Chennai around Tuesday midnight. Hundreds of people living in the densely populated neighbourhood that largely comprises fishing hamlets, rushed out of their homes at night complaining of difficulty in breathing and a burning sensation in the eyes and face following the gas leak at night.
A senior police officer said as news of the gas leak spread at least 3,000 to 4,000 residents had panicked and rushed out of their house fearing the worse. “The ammonia leak was contained and we reassured residents there was no need to panic. People who had inhaled the gas complained of breathing and related difficulties were admitted to hospitals including the Government Stanley Medical College and Hospital,” the officer said.
42 persons hospitalised amidst gas leak
Health Minister Ma Subramanian said 42 persons were hospitalised and were being treated on Wednesday.
Coromandel International Limited, the private company to which the ammonia pipelines were connected, acknowledged the leak. It said abnormalities were noticed in the delivery pipeline of liquid ammonia. Consequently, the next shipment unloading at its multi-buoy mooring system in terminal was cancelled. The company said the abnormalities would be rectified “to the satisfaction and certification of concerned (sic) authorities.” Till such time, the company’s Ennore minor port operation shall be temporarily suspended.
''Temporary Shutdown'' of chemical plant in Ennore
Environment Minister Siva V Meyyanathan said the State Government has ordered for “temporary shutdown” of the company’s facility in Ennore until further orders. The gas leak happened at the company’s fertiliser manufacturing facility.
Inspection report reveals high levels of ammonia gas in the air
Taking suo motu cognisance of the incident, the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal issued notice to the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to file a report and listed the case for January 2, 2024. An inspection by the TNPCB in the wee hours of Wednesday showed the ammonia level in the air to be 3 ppm or 2090 microgram/m3 as against the allowed 24-hour average of 400 microgram/m3.
Environment Secretary Supriya Sahu, in a report said, the ammonia gas leakage took place during the pre-cooling operation of the pipeline. An inspection by officials including the Joint Director of Industrial Safety showed the unit observed a pressure drop in the pipeline at around 11.45 p.m. and simultaneously observed a pungent odour around the storage terminal and near the material gate.
The unit also observed gas bubbles coming out of the pipeline at about 2 feet from the shore and immediately started depressurising the pipeline by diverting the ammonia vapour to the flare and completed the operation within 20 minutes.