Leak of toxic phosgene gas at Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals (GNFC)’s Toluene diisocyanate (TDI) unit has claimed lives of four workers and affected nine others. Following the incident that took place around Wednesday midnight, GNFC plant at Rahiyad village near Dahej in Bharuch district has been shutdown and the government ordered an inquiry.
“It appears that one of the small tubes inside the plant leaked. This plant had the provision of auto-shutdown and that’s why the leakage remained localised,” Rajiv Kumar Gupta, managing director of GNFC told The Indian Express. The company has announced Rs 8 lakh ex-gratia to family members of the four workers, even as value of its shares dropped 17.43 per cent on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). This is second such incident at the plant in the past two years. In January 2014, as many as 21 workers were affected by a gas leak at the plant.
A disaster management team of Bharuch district administration, along with officials of Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and police, has started a probe into the incident. A case in this connection has been registered with Dahej police station.
According to GNFC officials and police, several workers complained of breathing problem after leak of phosgene gas was detected at the TDI plant around Wednesday midnight. As many as 10 workers and three company staffers were rushed to a hospital in Bharuch, where doctors declared four of them brought dead. Another worker died during treatment.
The deceased workers have been identified as Khurshid Shafi, Mohammed Tayyab Ansari, Mohammed Jainuddin and Vasim Ahmed — all from Bihar. While three workers have been discharged, the rest six were undergoing treatment at hospitals in Vadodara and Bharuch.
In its filing before the BSE, the company stated, “On November 2, 2016 late night, there was a mechanical failure of heat exchanger at TDI-II plant of GNFC at Dahej. As a result of that, there was a hazardous gas leak.”
The company stated that contract workers and regular company workers were affected by this gas leak and were shifted to Bharuch for emergency medical care. “Four contract workers from outside Gujarat died during treatment as a result of gas inhalation. Six additional affected workers are being administered best possible medical care. Their condition as per available medical report is not critical,” the company said.
“As a precautionary measure, the TDI plant of Dahej has been completely shutdown and emergency safety actions have been taken,” the company stated. The TDI-II plant has a capacity to produce 56,000 MTPA of Toluene diisocyanate, which is used in making furniture cushions, mattresses, automobile seats and other products.
The company also said that it would pay Rs 8 lakh ex-gratia (applicable to employees on the roll of the company) to the family members of the contract workers “on grounds of humanity”. It claimed that the situation was under control and there was no danger to human population in nearby villages.
Bharuch SP Sandeep Singh said, “At present we have registered an offence under accidental death into the incident, but we have strictly told the investigating police officer of Bharuch to carry out detail inquiry into the sequence of events. The condition of all those under treatment are stable. The FSL team has arrived and they are taking samples and carrying out investigation to find out the reason for the mechanical fault. Once we get the details from the FSL officials and factory inspectors, we will decide our future course of investigation. Post-mortem has also been carried out… We will not leave any stone unturned.”
Dahej police inspector Vipul Patel said, “This is the second such incident at the same plant. Earlier in January 2014, phosgene gas leakage incident had taken place at the TDI plant and at that time 21 labourers were affected by the gas, but no death was reported.”
Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel has demanded fair compensation and independent probe into the gas leak.