Tuesday, Jul 05, 2022

It's Not Just Vizag And Bhopal: Past Major Gas Leaks In India

Several major gas-leak related disasters have taken place in the last decade and incidentally, a lot of them were in Andhra Pradesh

A National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) soldier is fitted with gear before he proceeds to the area from where chemical gas leaked in Vishakhapatnam. AP Photo

The Vizag gas leak disaster in Andhra Pradesh has again raised questions on industrial safety standards in India. The country has seen a spate of leaks of poisonous chemicals since last four decades as the industry has grown, but some caused a substantive loss of human life while recalling the spectre of the Bhopal gas tragedy.

In the Bhopal gas tragedy, thousands of Indians lost their lives in what is considered the world’s worst industrial disaster. It took place on the night of December 2-3, 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Over 500,000 people were exposed to methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other chemicals. The toxic substance made its way in and around the inhabitations located near the plant. Nearly 4,000 people, including children, were killed in the incident.

But the 21st century has also witnessed some major gas-related industrial disasters in the country.

2014 GAIL Pipeline Blast: On 27 June 2014, a massive fire broke out following a blast in the underground gas pipeline maintained by the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) at Nagaram, East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. The incident killed at least 15 people while injuring over 40 others. People in the village where the accident took place said they had complained to the GAIL authorities about the gas leak but no action was taken to plug it. The impact of the blast was so severe that it left a huge crater on the ground and the fire spread rapidly engulfing houses, coconut trees and vehicles over a large area. At least 20 thatched houses were reduced to ashes.

2014 Bhilai Steel Plant Gas Leak: In another incident in June 2014 at Bhilai Steel Plant in Chhattisgarh's Durg district, six people were killed and over 40 injured in an incident of leakage in a methane gas pipeline at a water pump house. The six deceased were employees at the plant run by the state-owned SAIL, including two deputy managers.

2017 Delhi Gas leak: Around 470 schoolchildren were hospitalised after inhaling poisonous fumes that spread due to a chemical leak at a container depot near two schools in the customs area of Tughlaqabad depot. The students complained of irritation in eyes, breathlessness, nausea and severe headache. 

2018 Bhilai Steel Plant Blast: Nine people were killed and 14 others injured in a blast at the Bhilai Steel Plant of state-owned SAIL. The blast took place following a fire in a gas pipeline of Coke Oven Battery Complex No 11 during a scheduled maintenance job, SAIL said in a statement. The bodies could only be identified by DNA test. The nine victims had died on spot.