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Nearly 93 persons fell sick early on Wednesday morning after inhaling the chlorine gas leaking from a cylinder stored in the Bombay Port Trust premises at Sewri, prompting the BPT, the police and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to begin a joint probe into the incident.
The affected persons were taken to the King Edward Memorial Hospital, the JJ Hospital and the BPT Hospital, police and fire brigade sources said. The affected people included college students, BPT staff and firemen.
The condition of eight persons at the JJ hospital was reportedly critical. However, there are no casualties so far, Dean of JJ hospital T P Lahane told reporters.
Some of the affected persons were discharged after receiving treatment. Currently, 78 persons are recuperating, of which eight have been admitted in the Critical Care Unit due to respiratory problems and 14 in the Medical Intensive Unit for throat problems, Lahane said.
Reportage: N Ganesh
Nearly 500 students of the LBS College of Advanced Maritime Studies and Research ran out of their hostel in Sewri at approximately 3.45 am, after the gas started leaking.
The students realised something was wrong when they started feeling uneasy. After they came out of their hostel, they couldn't breathe.
"It was a horrifying experience. Since we had just woken up from our sleep, we were totally disoriented. Some people opened the doors and windows of their room, but still they couldn't breathe and that made the problem worse. The warden came to the spot soon and informed us about the leak. He asked us to immediately evacuate the hostel. We left without taking any of our belongings," said one of the students.
As many as 93 students were rushed to the state run-JJ Hospital.
The gas leak caught everyone unawares, including the Fire Brigade personnel who had come to evacuate the students.
"Unlike the Fire Brigade personnel, we didn't have masks when we reached the spot. Even we started feeling an irritation in our throats. To make matters worse, since the chlorine content in the air was high; our CNG vehicle which requires air for combustion didn't start. We had to abandon the vehicle and call for help ourselves," said Tukaram Nimbare.
Nimbare, an attendant of the Mumbai Fire Brigade's Ambulance Service, has been admitted to the JJ Hospital.
Shaktivel Counder, 23, a labourer at the Port Trust, has been admitted to the same hospital. Counde was just 25 metres away from the site of the leak.
"I started feeling a burning sensation in my throat. I started to run from the spot but a huge amount of gas had leaked out. I fell while running and lost consciousness," said Counder.
JJ Hospital Dean TP Lahane said that there were no fatalities and most of the 93 people who had been admitted after the gas leak had been discharged. "All of them had
complained of irritation in the respiratory tract," said Lahane.
Those students who have been discharged were later told by the hostel authorities to return to the hostel only on July 25.
The Mumbai Port Trust officials have called in experts from the Central Reserve Police Force to figure out which tank had started leaking. Experts are now weighing the cylinders to ascertain which one among them had leaked the chlorine gas.
MbPT officials said that they have decided to dispose off all the cylinders. The cylinders had been lying at the Port Trust site for nearly 15 years after they were confiscated by the Customs authorities.
The gas leakage was reported at 3.15 am from the BPT premises located near the Lal Bahadur Shastri College of Maritime and Research Studies, a fire brigade official said.
"Due to the intake of chlorine gas, patients have developed breathlessness and are facing a burning sensation in their eyes, on their faces and their hands," the JJ Hospital Dean added.
Health Minister Vijay Kumar Gavit later visited the gas leak-affected persons admitted in J J Hospital.
"Seventy-eight patients have been admitted in the general ward, eight in the ICCU and 14 are in the Medical Intensive Unit. The rest have been discharged," he told reporters.
Most of the affected persons are likely to be discharged in two to three days, the minister said.
An inquiry into the incident will begin shortly, he added.
Additional inputs from PTI