Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mystery chemical cargo rolls in, rattles Bangalore

Mystery chemical cargo rolls in, rattles Bangalore
Forty-Barrel Load Left Abandoned; Children Fall Sick
TIMES NEWS NETWORK

Bangalore: The last thing Bangalore needs in these jumpy times is 40 barrels of a mystery chemical abandoned bang in the middle of the city. Especially a liquid which smelt foul as it burnt, and made children feel sick and breathless. The barrels were lying in the railway backyard in Srirampuram. With the Bhopal ghost still fresh, and terror attacks at the back of the mind, it put the people on tenterhooks.
The smell pervaded the surrounding areas through the night, and parts of Srirampuram, Magadi Road, Malleswaram and Seshadripuram. In immediate danger were the 4,000 slumdwellers, and around 50,000 people living in a five-km radius.
No one knew where the barrels had suddenly landed from — neither the Railways, BBMP nor local police. But the civic agencies were quite happy to pass the buck. On Monday morning, BBMP officials visited the spot and left the place by afternoon. When TOI contacted BBMP health officials, they said that since the barrels were in the Railways property, the latter should take the responsibility to shift them.
DANGER WARNING
The barrels carried a warning: ‘Highly inflammable, Imported from Israel’. One label on the barrel showed that the consignment was on its way from Dor Chemicals, Israel, to Hyderabad, while another showed the name of Hyderabad. It was apparent that the consignment had been dumped along with the tractor trailer, which carried a Hassan registration. The trailer, which was detached from its engine, was corroded due to fluid spilling over it, which must have made it impossible for the engine to take it along.
RAILWAYS TAKE ACTION
Finally, it was the Railways which decided to act after The Times of India tipped them off about the chemical leak and potential health hazard.
“Divisional regional manager Akhil Agrawal has asked the Railway Protection Force to look into the issue and find out who had dumped the chemicals in our premises. We also contacted the BBMP officials and they have agreed to come and bury the chemicals, instead of leaving it in the open air,’’ Railways spokesperson Raviprakash said.
Though the authorities got to work only on Monday evening, the barrels had created fear through Sunday night and Monday morning. It started when a strange smell swept through the slums of Sanjay Gandhi Nagar in Bangalore on Sunday evening. Tracking the source, the residents found around 40 metal barrels filled with a red, viscous fluid in the railway backyard. A few of them were burning slowly, setting off the foul stench, and the red liquid turned white as it burnt. Children began to have breathing problems and some felt nauseous, while elders needed masks to go about their work.
UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
1 How did the consignment arrive in Bangalore?
2 Where did it come from — Israel or Hyderabad? Labels on barrels suggest both
3 Who dumped it and why was it transported in a Hassan-registered vehicle?
4 Which is the enforcement agency that checks dumping of hazardous chemicals?
5 What is the role of State Pollution Control Board in such cases of transportation of chemicals?

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