Mumbai: Having failed to trace the source of the foul smell which enveloped several areas in Mumbai late on Saturday night, the BMC and the Mumbai Fire Brigade (MFB) are now consulting the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) on the 'mystery gas leak'. The MPCB officials have suggested that the stench could have been emitted by garbage or chemical waste trucks passing illegally through the affected areas.

The obnoxious odour led to panic across the city, prompting the BMC and the fire brigade to launch an investigation. After a more than five-hour-long operation to trace the origin/source of the gas leak and foul smell, the Fire Brigade said on Sunday afternoon that it did not detect any gas leak in the area. "There was no gas leak, as none of our devices in any of the areas from where we received the complaints could detect it. However, we do not think that residents who complained so were wrong. There might have been a foul smell, it is just that we are yet to trace its source," Chief Fire Officer Prabhat Rahangdale told The Free Press Journal.

According to preliminary information received from the BMC’s disaster management unit, the incident was reported at 9:53 pm on Saturday, following which teams from the Mumbai Fire Brigade, the Mahanagar Gas Limited and local police were mobilised. After an hour, the Mumbai Fire Brigade called in its HAZMAT team and kept it on stand-by at the spot. The BMC's disaster management unit had said a gas leak was reported at the US Vitamin Company, near Indira Apartment in Govandi east, which later spread toward Andheri and Powai.

The BMC had received frantic calls from residents of Chembur, Mankhurd, Ghatkopar east and west, Powai, Andheri, Kanjurmarg and Vikhroli, complaining about a foul, pungent odour. “We investigated the entire premises and nearby areas of US Vitamin Company but no leak was found. We followed the exact locations of complaints given by the BMC’s disaster management control room that received the calls but nothing could be traced,” added Rahangdale.

“The situation is under control. All necessary resources were mobilised. The origin of the smell was investigated, however, nothing concrete emerged. At least 17 fire engines equipped with public announcement systems were on the spot to deal with the situation. We are now also looking into the possibility of a methane build-up in drains. The investigation is ongoing,” a senior BMC official said. When contacted, Pundalik Mirashe, assistant secretary of the MPCB, too ruled out a gas leak.

He told The Free Press Journal that the smell could have been the result of moving trucks carrying toxic materials like fish waste or garbage or even containers transporting chemicals illegally. "In such cases, it becomes difficult to trace the source of the smell, as the trucks pass by the areas from where complaints came in. We have even set up night vigilance in areas like Mahul, from where regular complaints come in. We have air quality monitoring stations which too detect possible leaks or air pollutants.

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