At least 58 patients, 20 of whom were being treated for Covid-19, were shifted from the BMC-run Kasturba hospital at Agripada in central Mumbai and around 400 residents from nearby buildings were evacuated following liquid petroleum gas (LPG) leak at the hospital premises on Saturday.
The incident occurred at 11.34 am in the hospital’s LPG gas yard, which supplies gas for cooking and equipment sterilisation purposes. The capacity of the above-ground gas tank is 10 metric tonne (MT). It is suspected that the tank joint ruptured while excavation work was being undertaken in the vicinity.
At the time of the incident, the tank was half full. In over two hours after the incident, the storage had dropped to 3.5 MT.
“This morning, somebody was working with an excavation machine near the LPG tank. It is suspected that the JCB touched the tank, causing the leakage,” said Kishor Ghadigaonkar, Assistant Divisional Fire Officer of Mumbai Fire Brigade.
While the hospital with 934 beds is spread over a large area, the effects of the leakage were primarily felt by occupants of building 148 abutting the LPG gas yard. The two-storey building has five wards, including an ICU and two laboratories.
In all, 58 patients present in the building at the time of the incident had to be evacuated. “The patients were shifted to another building. Kasturba hospital has a large complex,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani, in charge of BMC health and disaster management departments. The BMC also had to evacuate residents from buildings near the hospital.
The civic body has ordered an inquiry into the incident. “We have asked the fire brigade to submit a report,” Kakani said.
Officials said that the gas leakage from the tanker was initially spotted by a worker repairing an air-conditioner. According to a Shiv Sena worker who lives near the hospital, there was panic soon after the leakage and patients were seen running out holding IV fluid sets in their hands.
The fire brigade arrived at the hospital around 12 pm. Three jumbo water tanks and fire engines each were pressed into service. Chief Fire Officer Hemant Parab said, “The leakage began from a joint in the tank.”
While the fire team initially tried to seal the leakage, only 60 per cent of the leak could be controlled. Later, a team from Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) was called in. Following this, HPCL’s regional manager called for mobile tankers to decant the tank. “We noticed that there was still 3.5 MT of gas left in the tanker. Following this, a container with a storage capacity of 6 MT was called from Kharghar. As it was urgent, we coordinated with the necessary departments and arranged for a green corridor,” said an official.
The tank – almost 40-ft long – reached the hospital around 4 pm. But because the container was big and the lanes leading to Kasturba hospital were narrow, the container could not reach the spot. Subsequently, two smaller tankers were arranged to store four MT of gas.
“We created two other green corridors for these two tankers from Kalamboli and Uran, respectively. The tankers arrived around 7 pm, after which the process to transfer the gas was initiated,” said another official.
Kasturba hospital was the first Covid-19 facility and testing lab in the city. On August 4, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had inaugurated Mumbai’s first genome sequencing laboratory in the hospital but it was yet to become operational.
The structure that was evacuated houses the hospital’s laboratory where testing for Covid-19 and several other diseases like malaria, dengue and swine flu also takes place. A senior scientist said power supply to the lab was switched off as precaution after the leakage.
Nair hospital Dean Ramesh Bharmal said that his hospital had been asked to perform additional tests since Kasturba hospital’s lab was shut.
With inputs from Sagar Rajput
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