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Oxygen express heads south, deliveries to Andhra and Tamil Nadu spike the most

Oxygen expresses, the special trains crisscrossing the country to ferry medical oxygen for patients of Covid-19, delivered their highest-ever single-day load of more than 1,142 tonnes on Sunday — beating the previous record of 1,118 tonnes on May 20.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi |
Updated: May 25, 2021 4:49:46 pm
'Oxygen Express Train' being used through green corridors to trasnport Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) and 0xygen cylinder, required for treatment of Covid-19 patients. (Source: Twitter/@RailMinIndia)

Southern states have figured prominently on India’s oxygen express map of late, with deliveries of liquid medical oxygen to Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka having spiked the most sharply over the last four days.

Oxygen expresses, the special trains crisscrossing the country to ferry medical oxygen for patients of Covid-19, delivered their highest-ever single-day load of more than 1,142 tonnes on Sunday — beating the previous record of 1,118 tonnes on May 20.

Between April 19, when the first oxygen express rolled, and Monday, the Railways have delivered 16,023 tonnes of liquid medical oxygen in more than 977 tankers aboard 247 trains.

From delivering emergency supplies to Delhi and Mumbai at the beginning of the second wave, the oxygen expresses have reached 15 states over the past month as the virus has spread to India’s vast rural hinterland.

More than half the total supply — 8,249 tonnes until Monday — has been to Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. On Saturday, Assam received 80 tonnes on a single oxygen express rake.

The biggest spike in supply recently has been seen in Andhra Pradesh, which had received a cumulative 292 tonnes until Thursday (May 20). On Monday, this number had jumped to 730 tonnes, an increase of 150 per cent.

Tamil Nadu had received 1,024 tonnes until Monday, a 75 per cent increase since Thursday. Karnataka had received 1,063 tonnes, a 66 per cent increase over receipts of 640 tonnes of oxygen until Thursday.

Telangana had received 772 tonnes until Thursday; at the end of Monday, that number had increased by 26 per cent to 976 tonnes.

Kerala, a state with no major oxygen shortage, had received six tankers carrying 118 tonnes until Thursday. Four days later, that number was 246 tonnes, a 108 per cent increase.

“Since the active caseload in southern states has been rising, stretching the capacity of (oxygen) plants in that region, we have diverted a lot of oxygen to these states,” said a senior government official involved in the operation.

While the first oxygen express last month carried supplies of the lifesaving gas to Mumbai from the Visakhapatnam steel plant, Maharashtra has so far required just 614 tonnes — the understanding is the demand may be plateauing in the state.

Between April 27 and Monday, Delhi had received 4,600 tonnes; an increase of 17 per cent since Thursday. Uttar Pradesh with 3,649 tonnes is second in terms of volumes of gas received. Haryana had received 1,759 tonnes by Monday, up 17 per cent since Thursday. Over the past one month, the bulk of the oxygen has come to these three states.

Most of the oxygen is being picked up from Hapa, Baroda, and Mundra in the west, and Rourkela, Durgapur, Tatanagar, and Angul in the east of the country. With the looming threat from cyclone Yaas this week, the government has made plans to ensure uninterrupted power to the plants, and worked on alternative routes for the expresses, should the regular routes be affected, sources said.

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