The preparedness of the municipal council in dealing with emergencies was exposed when it failed to take timely action in controlling a chlorine-gas leak following which two persons were hospitalised and residents living nearby were evacuated.
The gas leak occurred in the premises of the civic body at around 3 pm on Saturday.
Two persons, including a member of the fire brigade, were admitted to the civil hospital here because of respiratory problems caused by the gas leak.
The residents claimed that though they complained to the civic body authorities at about 3 pm when they smelt the gas, rescue operation was initiated over two hours later.
However, none of the senior officers – sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), executive officer (EO) – of the municipal council visited the spot even as the gas leak continued for about six hours after starting the rescue operation.
Harinder Pal Singh, resident of the locality near the civic body, said that after suspecting a leak they immediately informed the fire brigade. But, they too failed to act promptly, he said.
He added that panic gripped the residents at about 8 pm when it became difficult for them to breathe. He said that authorities failed to control the leak in spite of engaging the fire team to sprinkle water to reduce the effect of the gas, when the residents started evacuating the place. Harpreet Singh, another resident said that it was a shock that one of the wealthiest MCs in Punjab had failed to provide protective gear to the team making it harder for team to curb the leak, which further delayed the process.
Mandi Gobindgarh EO Ashok Kumar said that leak had happened when some official had tried to replace an empty cylinder to chlorinate water which is supplied to residents. Senior medical officer Bhupinder Singh said that two patients who were admitted were discharged after being given first-aid. In spite of repeated attempts through various channels, SDM-cum-administrator Rajdeep Kaur did not respond.
Mandi Gobindgarh SHO Ajaypal Singh said they first set up nakas and asked residents to vacate their houses and then they helped the fire team to dispose of the cylinder.
An official source said that it was learnt that they had thrown the cylinder in Bhakara canal, which was used by people for the canal water.