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A total 475 schoolgirls were admitted to hospital after they inhaled a noxious chemical that leaked from a container in a crowded south Delhi neighbourhood Saturday morning. By late evening, nearly 70 children were still in hospital but they were all out of danger, police said.
The container of chloro methylpyridine — a chemical that is used in the manufacture of pesticides — had arrived from China and was to be transported from the container depot in Tughlakabad to Sonipat in Haryana. Around 4.30 am, as the consignment was being checked, one of the containers leaked and some of the chemical spilt on the road, sources said.
After the sun rose, the chemical started to foam and a part of it vapourised. “The Rani Jhansi Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya is just next to the depot, due to which the schoolgirls were the worst affected,” an officer said.
DCP (southeast) Romil Baaniya said, “We have lodged a case of negligence and have started investigations into the incident.” Police sources said the container has reached Sonipat and they have contacted the owner of the company.
The school’s vice-principal, Renu Rampal, said students from classes located on the first, second and third floors complained of uneasiness. “After the morning assembly, the students went to their classes. A little later, some students and teachers came downstairs complaining of a pungent smell,” she said.
“By the time we went to check what the problem was, more students started complaining of nausea and irritation in their eyes. We immediately asked everyone to gather on the field. We made a PCR call and called for ambulances,” she added.
Officials from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Delhi Disaster Management Authority, Delhi Fire Services and Delhi Police reached the spot and cordoned off the area.
“Initially, we sent about 150 students to three separate hospitals nearby. Later, those students who went home also experienced irritation in the eyes and uneasiness and went to the hospital,” Rampal said.
Nisha, a student of Class IV, told The Indian Express that she felt pain in her nose and irritation in her eyes. “Other students of my class also experienced this. Our teacher brought us to the hospital in an ambulance. I am fine now,” she said.
Neelam from Class VIII said, “I had gone back home. Half an hour later, I felt nauseous. My throat started to hurt as well. I told my mother, who took me to the hospital.”
NDRF Assistant Commandant Shri Niwas told The Indian Express that a team of 34 personnel was rushed to the spot.
“We cordoned off the area with the help of police and DFS officials. During inspection, the chemical was found to be chloro methylpyridine, which is used to make pesticides. We have contained the fumes,” he said. He added that the quantity of the chemical that leaked was low.
“Maximum students have gone back home. Few are still under observation in hospitals. AIIMS team is working on medical impact study,” Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said.