Forty-one people, including children and three firemen, were hospitalised following a major gas leakage at a cold storage that engulfed Pawane industrial area in Navi Mumbai in the wee hours of Tuesday.
Anand Parab, station officer of the MIDC Fire and Emergency Response Centre, said: “There was a gas leak at Sheetal Cold Storage between 2.30 am and 3 am We rushed to the spot and found that ammonia had engulfed the entire area.”
Prakash More (32), a resident of the nearby Pawane village, said: “We were sleeping when suddenly we just couldn’t breathe. We thought we would die.”
The local residents, who rushed out of their homes, complained of nausea and dizziness.
Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) Deputy Municipal Commissioner Jagannath Sinnarkar was one of the first to reach the spot and called in help from hospitals like MGM and D.Y. Patil. While many were administered treatment on the spot, four children, 18 women and 19 men were rushed to the NMMC hospital in Vashi.
“The leakage was heavy… In fact, even three of our men had to be hospitalised,” said Parab. “It was very difficult locate the source but it was finally traced to a gasket.”
Fireman VD Kadam (40) said, “The volume of ammonia in the air suffocated me as I entered the company premises. I was just about to lose consciousness, when my colleagues dragged me out.”
The gasket valve was finally blocked with help from experts from the nearby Herdillia company. Locals claimed that the cold storage employees had fled following the leakage. The company officials, however, refused to comment.
Deputy Commissioner of Police RD Shinde said, “Based on the opinion of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, we have registered a case against manager of the cold storage Usman Kadiwal (58) and operator Samuel Biharijana (32) and booked them for negligence causing minor injury and under the Air Pollution Act, 1981.”