Butcher Island fire: Elephanta Caves tourists complain of soot, stench | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Butcher Island fire: Elephanta Caves tourists complain of soot, stench

A diesel tank at the oil terminal on the island caught fire on Friday after being struck by lightning. Gharapuri island, where the caves are located, is located to the south-east of Butcher island

mumbai Updated: Oct 09, 2017 00:13 IST
Badri Chatterjee
The smoke from the Butcher Island seen at Elephanta caves.
The smoke from the Butcher Island seen at Elephanta caves.(Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)

Tourists visiting Elephanta Caves near Mumbai’s coast on Sunday found their clothes stained by soot from the fire at Butcher island.

A diesel tank at the oil terminal on the island caught fire on Friday after being struck by lightning. Gharapuri island, where the caves are located, is located to the south-east of Butcher island.

Sanjay Kumar, 53, originally from Patna, went to the UNESCO world heritage site on a vacation with his family on Sunday. “There were small black particles in the air which stuck on to our clothes. There was a strong smell.”

Air quality experts told HT the soot or ash contains black carbon, which is among the most deadly form of pollutants, and can easily enter the respiratory system, causing health ailments.

Researchers said strong winds may have pushed the particles to the surrounding areas. “We expect the impact of the fire to show in our readings by Sunday night. However, if it rains, the pollutants will get dispersed,” said Gufran Beig, project director, System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research. “Black carbon is more dangerous than PM2.5 (particulate matter of the size less than 2.5 microns) and can be extremely harmful for children and senior citizens.”

Doctors said the area needs to be cordoned off. “Tourists who have been exposed to the soot and are experiencing breathlessness, need to visit their nearest physician for a check-up,” said Dr Sanjeev Mehta, pulmonologist, Lilavati Hospital in Bandra.

Tasneem Mehta, former vice-chairman, INTACH, who prepared the management plan for Elephanta, said the Archeological Society of India (ASI) and the state government were told about the environmental concern as early as 2000. “We had suggested that any kind of development in the area should be curtailed or at least be limited. The soot can only be removed through scientific means and ASI needs to look into it as the caves are carved out of limestone,” she said.

Experts pointed out that even marine life could get affected. “The chances of dilution of black carbon are less and it can easily get stuck in the gills of marine species or get consumed once it settles at the bottom of the sea shore,” said E Vivekanandan, scientist, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute.