At least five people were killed and more than 140 injured when a gas tanker carrying liquified ammonia got stuck under the Doraha flyover late on Friday, leading to gas leakage.
The incident took place around 11 pm on Friday when the unidentified driver, who is still absconding, tried to drive through from under the flyover but the tanker was taller in height. Instead of taking a U-turn, he continued to push through, breaking the tanker nozzle in the process.
While many commuters, pedestrians and people living in nearby colonies fainted, others complained of eye irritation, breathlessness, swollen throats and choked voices.
In severe cases, people bled from nose and mouth. Soon, the administration rushed fire brigades from Khanna, Samrala, Ludhiana, Doraha and nearby stations to the spot and water was used to suppress the effect of ammonia.
Till the filing of this report – the four deceased were identified as Satpal Kumar, 62 resident of Doraha; Rahul, 35, native of Bihar working in Doraha; Avtejinder Singh, 25 from Jalandhar; and Ranjodh Singh, in his thirties from village Doraha. The fifth dead body at SPS Hospital was still unidentified.
Speaking to Indian Express, Gurpreet Singh Gill, SSP Khanna said, “As per the probe till now, tanker was travelling from Gujarat to Nangal. It is owned by Agrawal’s, who own some 300 tankers in Gujarat. The driver should have taken a U-turn and moved from other way meant for taller vehicles instead of forcefully trying to pass underneath flyover. We have registered case under section 304 (Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) against unidentified driver.”
DSP Payal Harjinder Singh Gill, accompanied by the fire rescue team from Samrala led by fire officer Yashpal, was first to reach the spot. Gill also got unconscious while leading the rescue operations and had to be admitted to IVY Hospital Khanna from where he was referred to Fortis.
Carrying almost 2,200 tons of ammonia, the tanker was moved from the flyover to a vacant plot at around 6 am near Deep Nagar village outside Doraha after the leakage was controlled.
But even at the vacant plot, fire brigades continued to pour water on the tanker to control the strong ammonia odour.
Two locals, Vinod Kumar and Balwinder Singh, told The Indian Express, “Friends and relatives starting calling us and we were out on roads. The effect of gas was maximum in colonies near flyovers on highway and even plants died within 4-km radius. Dead bodies of animals and birds were lying on roads. Last night people came out to help each other even before rescue teams reached, whosoever saw anyone lying unconscious, they were rushed by other people to nearby hospitals on their motorbikes and cars.”
Soon, the ambulances from all hospitals such as Civil Hospital Ludhiana and Khanna, IVY Khanna, SPS, CMCH and DMCH Ludhiana were deployed.
Even the administration started making announcements in gurudwaras and railway station immediately as the news of gas leakage spread. “There was announcement in our village gurudwara to rush the unconscious people to hospitals. They also told to vacate the homes and rush to safer places. All gurudwaras nearby- Manji Sahib, Katani Sahib etc were flooded with people,” said Jarnail Singh from Bawani village nearby.
Sub divisional magistrate (Payal) Harjot Kaur also felt dizzy while on duty and was rushed to a hospital. Even after eight hours of the incident, the ammonia odour continued to trouble the people in Doraha and they were seen wearing masks and handkerchiefs while commuting.
The teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were also rushed to the spot. However, later in the day heavy rains lashed Doraha and nearby areas, which medical experts said would be of great help in reducing the effects of toxic gas and removing its traces from the air.
Patients with minor problems were discharged from hospitals. Initial numbers said that 80 males, 63 females and rest children were admitted in hospitals.
MLA Payal cum speaker Vidhan Sabha Charanjit Singh Atwal visited hospitals to meet the patients and later Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa also met patients. The administration announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh for families of deceased (one lakh each to be paid by govt and SGPC) and free treatment for other patients.