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[greenyes] Update on the endosulfan plant fire


Massive fire in the Hindustan Insecticides Limited Factory in
Eloor, Kerala burns down Endosulfan Plant ; Hundreds of
people living around feared affected.

The Periyar Malineekarana Virudha Samithi (PMVS- Periyar
River Anti-Pollution Committee ) activist V V Purushan has just
sent his direct account of the incident.
?Today at around 2:00 AM a fire started in the Hindustan
Insecticides Limited factory and the whole endosulfan plant got
burnt within hours. Toxic gases and smoke spread to all over
Eloor, Pallipurachal and Chowka North end as well as to
Varapuzha Panchayath area and has affected hundreds of people.
People living in the Pallipurachal area rushed to the Eloor Ferry
and crossed the river in fear and helplessness. Many people were
running with small babies to escape from the toxic smoke. It was
by sheer luck that a major tragedy of casualties did not happen.
From 2?O clock the people of Eloor North and Pallipurachal area
were almost resigned to their fate and expecting tragedy to strike
them, even as the factory continued to burn. The HIL
management said that plant has not been badly affected and that
only a small quantity of toluene, a little bit of endosulfan and some
rubber sheets were burnt.

Whatever company officials say, in the community people are
suffering serious health problems. An 8-member doctors team has
come to assess the situation and given immediate medical help
under the Additional District Magistrate, who was the first senior
official to reach the site, nearly 8 hours after the incident. About
200 people have been given initial medical assistance. One 16-
year old girl has been admitted after she developed convulsions,
chest pain and dizziness. Even as I am writing this, the doctors
are continuing their check up (3.30 PM). We know and we are
expecting serious long term health problems due to this disaster.?

The Eloor Industrial Area hosts about 250 industries of which
there are more than a dozen large chemical factories. This
particular factory the Hindustan Insecticides Limited has been in
the eye of the storm for quite some time now. In 1999,
Greenpeace surveyed and sampled the factory outskirts, especially
a stream coming out of the factory into the community water body
and the river and found 111 chemicals of which 39 were
hazardous organochlorine compounds including DDT and
metabolites, Endosulfan and metabolites and their degradation
products. This plant is the only plant in India which produces
DDT ( a Persistent Organic Pollutant ) and Endosulfan as well as
Dicofol.

In 2003, Greenpeace again conducted a study in the area and
found that the community living in the area were badly affected
and that the probabilities of falling for various diseases were much
higher that normal control values.

The community under the banner of the PMVS had been
demanding Right to Information on the hazardous chemicals used,
processed and manufactured by the factories in the area and has
also been demanding that factories implement a disaster
management plan and an emergency response system. All these
demands have fallen into the dead ears of the Kerala State
Pollution Control Board, the Factories and Boilers Department
and the State Health and Industries department. The Industries in
the area and their management have been completely ignoring the
community demands, as they know that the community is also
dependent on the factories and that they will not go over their
heads to stop them. In the last three years there has been quite
frequent gas leaks and accidents, especially from Merchem, a
privately owned factory producing some fungicides and FACT, a
major fertilizer company.

Eloor itself is situated in between the river and amidst factories
and the 30,000 odd people living in the area has literally no way of
escape except to jump into the river or get ferries (if they are the
lucky ones ) if such incidents occur. Even in this case, while about
200 people could ferry across, more than double that number was
stranded with their fate on the banks of the river.

While more from the area is coming, we here are shocked because
we understand that the thermal degradation products of
Endosulfan , HCCP and Toluene could be highly corrosive and
toxic HCl, Chlorine gases and Phosgene. It is also felt that
burning of Organochlorine products could be producing Dioxins
and Furans, which could make matters worse.

More shall be added as and when we receive news?And please
do get back with whatever information or technical support that
you can offer.


Jayan

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