Residents flee after ammonia leak


Kochi: A major leakage of potentially toxic ammonia gas occurred near west Eroor when the chemical was being transported on a barge from Willingdon Island to FACT, Cochin division, on Friday evening. The leakage caused panic among residents in Kunnara Island and in close by areas such as Chambakkara. Around 500 families were evacuated from the area.

The barge contain around 190 tonnes of ammonia. The chemical was kept in six tanks which can carry around 30 tonnes each. “There are around 12 fire engines in the spot, trying to dilute the ammonia,” RDO S Suhas said.

Local residents said the barge continued its journey for 750m from Chambakkara to Kunnara unaware of the leakage. The leakage came to light when people, living on the shores, felt the pungent smell of ammonia.

They soon alerted the fire force in Tripunithura who in turn alerted FACT officials.
“When we were returning home, we felt the pungent smell of ammonia at 6.15pm. My mother too felt suffocation due to the smell,” said John, a student from SH College, Thevara.
“By 6.20pm, we have got an alarm call from locals and a unit of gas extinguishing team, comprising six firemen, rushed to the spot,” said assistant fire officer Venugopal. By this time, the fire unit from BPCL and FACT also reached the spot.
“We are trying to evacuate as much residents to a safe distance. We have taken two people to the hospital,” said sub-inspector V Sivakumar, Hill Palace station. Local resident Jophy Joseph’s wife had delivered a child only last Saturday. “My neighbour helped us shift her to a safe place and my aged parents are in the house adjacent to the spot,” he said.
FACT officials finally managed to plug the leak around 11pm.