Protests erupt in Kochi as toxic fumes from garbage fire shroud city for 11th straight day
On Sunday morning, the AQI was above 200 and officials in the pollution control board said it may cross 300 by evening.
Thiruvananthapuram: Protests erupted in Kochi as the port city continued to be smothered in toxic fumes on Sunday from the fire at the Brahmapuram garbage dump that started 11 days ago, even forcing some people to evacuate to safer areas.
The Air Quality Index on Sunday morning was above 200 and officials in the pollution control board said it may cross 300 by evening. Many residents’ associations said a large number of people have left the city.
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Aneesh Sebastian, a software engineer who works at Info Park, moved to his home town in Kottayam on Saturday after his five-year-old son developed breathing problems. “The situation is really alarming as residents are gasping for breath. It is a disgrace that the state’s best city has been reduced to an object of shame,” he said.
“Offline work from Info Park is no longer feasible as the condition has worsened. Many employees are suffering from health issues,” said P Anish, president of an IT firm. There are 280 IT companies in the park that employ more than 60,000 people. “It is a pity that the city is gasping for breath even after 11 days,” said actor Sandra Thomas. Singer Sayanora sang on a Kochi street on Saturday to express her anger.
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Agitated residents said they have lost hope as different agencies continued the blame game over the fire. “The response is very poor. It is a shame that people are leaving the city for fresh air,” said Kemal Pasha, retired judge of Kerala high court.
Although a ministerial team that visited Kochi on Saturday said that 80% of flames have been doused, people said thick smoke from the dump belied their claims.
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As many as 800 people have sought medical aid so far and a doorstep health survey will begin on Tuesday, state health minister Veena George said on Saturday. “We will identity people who are affected by the smoke and start treatment,” she said. The government has asked all hospitals to give top priority to people who approach them with breathing problems.
“Long-term impact of such toxic fumes and smoke has to be studied. Toxic chemical will continue to enter the body even after the smoke is settled through crops, water and livestock,” said Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, former president of Indian Medical Association, Kerala.
Many medical stores said the demand for inhalers, oximeters and respiratory tract infection medicines has increased manifold. Tour operators complained that they are getting anxious calls from clients.