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Residents breathless as nitric acid leaks from Khadki explosives factory

It was an unpleasant morning on Thursday for residents of large parts of Khadki,Yerawada,Viman Nagar and Vishrantwadi,including the staff at police lines in the region and prisoners at Yerawada jail...

Written by Express News Service | Pune |
July 24, 2009 2:00:55 am

It was an unpleasant morning on Thursday for residents of large parts of Khadki,Yerawada,Viman Nagar and Vishrantwadi,including the staff at police lines in the region and prisoners at Yerawada jail,as nitric acid leaking from a pipeline in the High Explosives Factory,(HEF) Khadki,caused suffocation and uneasiness.

Around 12.50 am,residents of Pratik Nagar,Yerawada,called the fire brigade complaining of gas leaking and emitting a pungent smell. A fire brigade and police team rushed to the spot. They found white chemical powder with a strong odour spread on the footpaths,road,trees,buildings and vehicles in the area.

Station fire officer Gajanan Pathrudkar said many residents had gathered on the road. “Some suffered from suffocation and cough. We also got a message from Yerawada jail that some prisoners have complained of suffocation.”

“A thick layer of white chemical powder emitting a strong,irritating smell was spread across a large area. Particles of the powder were also seen in the air at some spots. We initially thought the powder was released from the chimney of some industrial unit and called up a few factories in the area,but there was no processing activity going on. After an hour,the situation was back to normal as the powder was washed away by the incessant rain,” Pathrudkar said.

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Meanwhile,the police initiated a probe into source of the powder and sent its samples for a chemical test. Soon,the HEF informed the Pune police that it was due to the leakage of nitric acid from a pipeline in its premises.

Deputy commissioner of police (zone IV) Jalinder Supekar said,“We have received a letter from the HE Factory,saying that nitric acid leaked from a pipeline inside the factory. There was a reaction between the nitric acid and steam coming out from another pipeline in the factory,which generated fumes over a large area. The fumes might have settled down as white powder at some places. The nitric acid was used for making explosives at the Factory. The factory authorities have assured that the damaged pipeline has been repaired and all precautions have been taken.”

Though nobody has been hospitalised,around 40 persons reported minor problems such as suffocation. “We have sent samples of the white powder for a chemical test,” said Supekar. Despite repeated attempts to contact him,V Ramanand,joint general manager of HEF,remained unavailable for comment.

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