Five persons were killed and nearly 200 others fell ill after inhaling ammonia gas which leaked from a gas tanker after it accidentally brushed against a flyover near Ludhiana, triggering panic in the area.
The incident occurred on Friday night on Delhi-Ludhiana highway when the tanker got stuck under a flyover along a canal, about 25-km from here, police said.
Khanna Senior Superintendent of Police Gurpreet Singh Gill said that the incident was caused due to the negligence of the driver. "The tanker got stuck under the flyover and its valve got damaged, resulting in the leakage.” "It was late in the night and there was no heavy traffic. The driver should have seen if the vehicle would pass through," he said.
Dr Renu Chhatwal, civil surgeon, Ludhiana, said, "Due to the ammonia gas leak incident at Doraha late last (Friday) night, five persons have died, while a total of 190 were admitted in various hospitals of the district." She said that at present, around 110 people are still hospitalised while the remaining have been discharged.
According to the doctor, the deceased have been identified as Satpal, 60, and Ranjodh Singh, 45, both residents of Doraha, Avitejinder Singh Kler 28, Rahul in his 30s and another person was yet to be identified.
Ludhiana Police Commissioner Pramod Ban said that soon after the incident police vehicles, fire tenders and ambulances were pressed into service.
Eyewitness and police said that there was panic among the travellers on the highway and adjoining roads besides those residing in nearby areas as vast stretch was affected due to the gas leak. The locals came out of their houses even as the gas from the leaking tanker spread in and around Doraha, police said, adding that residents of the surrounding areas had to be evacuated after the incident. The tanker was coming from Gujarat to Punjab.
Four teams of the National Disaster Response Force from its nearest base in Bathinda, had been deployed to "render safe" the tanker and the leakage. "The leaking gas was diluted with the help of water showers over the valve of the tanker," a statement issued by the NDRF said. Later on, the tanker was shifted from the place where it had got stuck.
The Punjab government and Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee, an apex religious body of the Sikhs, announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh each for the deceased persons.
Those under treatment at various hospitals of the district would be given free treatment by the Punjab government, Assembly Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, who visited all the victims of gas leak incident in the hospital said on Saturday. Atwal lauded the efforts of district administration, the Khanna police, and fire brigade tenders from Ludhiana, Khanna, Mandi Gobindgarh and all other social organisations which took part in the rescue operations.
Atwal said that the chief minister is keeping a close eye on the situation and has assured all possible help to the victims.
The victims of gas leak are undergoing treatment at various hospitals in Ludhiana while some are admitted to private and government hospitals of Khanna area.
Congress' Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha and Amritsar MP Amarinder Singh expressed grief over the death of five people in Doraha gas leak incident.
Expressing sympathies with the bereaved families, he said, he and his party stood by them in this hour of grief. The former chief minister, however, expressed concern over the alleged lack of medical facilities around the area "which led to delayed treatment of people affected by the gas leak."
Amarinder demanded Rs 10 lakh compensation for the families of those, killed in the incident. Meanwhile, Punjab Congress President Pratap Singh Bajwa visited those affected by the gas in the hospitals.
Bajwa alleged that "it was shocking to know that there was no fire brigade service available in Doraha which made this incident worse. People kept on waiting for the fire tenders to arrive for more than two hours." He also demanded Rs 10 lakh as compensation for the victims who lost their life in this incident and Rs 1 lakh compensation for the injured.