On Saturday morning, the smoke rising from a wasteyard fire blanketed the entire city, leaving Kochi gasping for air. Residents of the city experienced breathing problems, and visibility on the roads was decreased, as poisonous smoke from the trash disposal yard in Brahmapuram, where a big fire broke out two days earlier, spread across a radius of more than 10 kilometres.
Senior citizens and those with asthma were the most severely impacted, and many of them sought medicine. Those who went for early walks reported having breathing problems and a burning sensation in their eyes. Several were compelled to spend the entire day inside. Smoke continues to billow from the yard despite the fact that the fire that started on Thursday was put out by Saturday night.
Fire personnel were accompanied by firefighters from BPCL, FACT, and the Navy to douse off the massive fire
The Kerala Fire and Rescue Services were among the first responders, deploying over 100 personnel along with 16 fire tenders to douse the blaze. In addition, 20 units of firefighters from BPCL, FACT, and the Navy joined the operation, along with six earth movers. However, despite their efforts, the fire continued to spread as the waste piled up in the yard was dry.
As a result, the district administration sought the help of the Navy on Friday. An advanced light helicopter was deployed to assess the extent of the fire, followed by a helicopter with a Large Area of Aerial Liquid Dispersion Equipment to drop water on the affected areas. Over 5,000 liters of water were sprayed in the active fire zones, which helped bring the fire under control. However, smoke continues to emanate from the yard even though the fire has been doused.
Pollution levels have raised to hazardous mark due to toxic smoke in the air
The pollution levels in the air were hazardous until early Saturday morning, and it will take at least a week for the city's air quality to improve, according to Baburajan P K, Chief Environmental Engineer of the Pollution Control Board (PCB).
The toxic smoke spread to a radius of more than 10 km, causing breathing difficulties for city residents and reduced visibility on the roads. As per Central Pollution Board data, Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) in Kochi was in the range of 478-500, and the particles with a diameter of 10 micrometres or less (PM10) were in the range of 344-447 between 6 am and 10 am on Saturday, which are dangerously high.
High PM2.5 levels affect people’s health, and also reduces visibility -- with the air appearing hazy. PM10 is small enough to pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs, causing serious health effects.
The District Collector Renu Raj urged the public to stay indoors on Sunday, and a report has been requested to determine the cause of the fire. In addition, the Kerala Pollution Control Board has issued a notice to the Kochi corporation, imposing environmental compensation. The local body has 15 days to submit its report before the PCB. The collector also said an oxygen kiosk would be set up in the district.
Similar incident reported in Goa
A massive fire destroyed the warehouse of the Berger Becker Coatings Pvt. Ltd factory at the Pilerne Industrial estate on Jan 10. Ninety-four workers were in the factory at the time of the mishap, but all managed to escape without injuries. Meanwhile, the smoke from the paint factory hit Goa's sky leading it to turn black and cloudy. Some might have initially guessed it to be unseasonal rains, however, the reason behind the dark sky was the smoke emanating from the fire.
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