6 December 2007
CHENNAI: For the second consecutive day on Wednesday, residents of north Chennai and other parts of the city complained of irritation in the eyes and a choking sensation due to inhalation of an acrid-smelling gas.
As the news spread, many educational institutions declared a holiday as a precautionary measure.
Based on a complaint received from a resident of Egmore, the Central Crime Branch police registered a case under IPC Sections 278 (making atmosphere noxious to health) and 284 (negligent conduct with respect to poisonous substance).
Speaking to reporters, Commissioner of Police G. Nanchil Kumaran said preliminary inquiries were conducted with several industrial units, including the Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited at Manali. Whether any noxious gases had leaked from any of these facilities would be known after investigation, he said.
Noting that there was no need for panic, he said two persons, identified as Uma Bharati and Mahalakshmi, of Villivakkam had complained of general uneasiness.
Joint Commissioner of Police (North) M. Ravi said on Tuesday evening, police teams accompanied by officials from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board inspected various units. The CPCL refinery has been on an annual maintenance shutdown since December 2. The police and TNPCB authorities have instructed the unit to stop the maintenance work. If any lapses are found, the police would take action as per the law, he said.
In a statement, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board Chairman N. Sundaradevan said leakage of gas from a refinery in north Chennai had caused burning of eyes and breathing difficulties for people.
“The public need not panic. TNPCB officials and scientists inspected units in Manali, ” he said.
According to the TNPCB, it was customary for the refineries to slowly let out the gas into the atmosphere when their machinery had to be stopped for maintenance. “These gases contain hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds. They are not poisonous… There will not be any after effects that impact health,” Mr. Sundaradevan said.
Due to rain and cloud cover on Wednesday, the gases had not dissipated into the atmosphere quickly.
The TNPCB has directed the refinery to stop the release of gas.