Saturday was not the first time that a chemical leak was reported from the Tughlakabad Container Depot. Sources said that two days ago, a small quantity of chloro methylpyridine leaked from one of drums, affecting some truck drivers and workers.
Satish Kumar, a transporter at the depot, said, “Drivers and workers had complained of uneasiness on Thursday. As no one fell seriously ill, the issue was not pursued.” He added that the container was being shifted to Sonipat on Saturday when the chemical spilt on to the road.
Teams from the Nuclear Biological and Chemical Disposal Team (NBC) emptied bags of sand on the spot where the chemical had leaked and doused it with water, officials said.
Sources said the container had been kept in the depot for the past three days as there was a delay in getting clearance from the customs department.
Meanwhile, panic gripped the Tughlakabad Railway Colony and the Rani Jhansi Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya located near the depot. While 475 students were admitted to the hospital, some residents too fell sick after inhaling the fumes.
“I was sleeping in my room when I smelt something pungent. I looked out of the balcony to find the source of the smell. Soon, my eyes started to sting and I began to cough. My parents also experienced the same symptoms. We came out of our house and found policemen and ambulances at the end of our lane. A policeman told us that a chemical had leaked from a container,” said Saurabh Singh, who works in a private company.
“We repeatedly washed our eyes. Though police said the leak is under control, we still feel its effect in the air,” he added.
Another resident, Dharam Kumar, who has been living in the colony for two decades, said he has never heard of such an incident before. “We are shocked as to how such a dangerous chemical was left unattended in the depot,” he said.
While the school will remain closed for two days, staff have been asked to come in. Police, meanwhile, have appealed to workers and people living nearby to stay away from the spot for a few days.