Nashik oxygen leak: Death toll rises to 24; high-level committee set up to probe incident

Death toll in the Nashik oxygen leak incident has risen to 24, informed Mayor Satish Kulkarni. He said that there was no negligence by the Corporation and a high-level committee has been set up to probe the incident.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday announced Rs 5 lakhs ex-gratia for kin of the deceased who lost their lives after an oxygen tanker leaked outside Dr Zakir Hussain Hospital in Nashik.

According to a statement issued by the Chief Minister's Office, a high-level inquiry has been ordered to probe the Nashik incident.

"The Corona-crisis has plunged the country into a vicious cycle. Overall, there is a heterogeneous battle going on against Corona, where there is no oxygen, where there are no medicines, where there are no beds. Due to this, patients are dying," Thackeray said.

"The news of the accident of oxygen leakage in Nashik Municipal Hospital is shocking, it is moving. An oxygen tank leak killed 22 patients. I have no words to express this grief. Suddenly, an accident like this happens while the Maharashtra government is betting on the patient to recover," he added.

The Chief Minister further said that the incident will be investigated in depth.

"If he is responsible for this accident, he will not be spared, but no one should politicize this unfortunate incident. This is an attack on the whole of Maharashtra. The whole of Maharashtra is in mourning over the tragedy in Nashik," he added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah expressed condolences on the loss of lives in the incident.

Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that the situation is under control now. Meanwhile, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Minister Rajendra Shingane said: "It is an unfortunate incident. We are trying to get a detailed report. We have ordered an enquiry as well. Anyone found responsible will not be spared." Several states are facing a shortage of medical oxygen, especially Maharashtra.

A private company looked after the tank maintenance at the hospital, District Collector Suraj Mandhare said, adding technicians closed the tank valve preventing more deaths.

Three days before the tragedy, the Union health ministry's COVID-19 data compiled between March 16 and April 15 from major cities showed Nashik the worst-hit city in the country in terms of cases per million residents.

Wednesday's disruption of medical oxygen supply was caused by leakage from a storage plant, officials said.

Of the 150 patients admitted to the hospital, 23 were on ventilator support at the time of the incident while the rest were on oxygen support, a senior civic official said.

The municipal corporation shifted cylinders from other facilities in the city to help the patients at the hospital after the leak, which was noticed around 12.30 pm, an official said. Hospital officials then contacted municipal commissioner Kailash Jadhav seeking technical help to stop the leakage.

A 13 kilolitre oxygen tank was set up on the premises of the hospital, located in the Dwarka area of Nashik.

"Around 10 am, a socket of the oxygen storage tank broke and the leakage started. When the hospital staff came to know about it, they deployed jumbo cylinders to supply oxygen to the patients and started shifting some of the patients," an official said.

The leakage has been stopped, the tank repaired and the oxygen supply is being normalised, he said.

Soon after the incident, people rushed to the hospital hindering rescue operations.

"An oxygen tanker had reached the hospital premises when the leak happened. Technicians who came with that tanker and technicians at the hospital broke open the lock of the tank and closed the valve which prevented the further leakage of oxygen," he said.

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal