90 per cent of fire at Brahmapuram waste plant extinguished: Kerala govt

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Photo: GR Rahul/ Mathrubhumi

Kochi: The Kerala government on Saturday said 90 per cent of the fire at Brahmapuram waste treatment plant was extinguished and efforts were on to douse the rest of the affected area.

An expert committee meeting, chaired by Additional Chief Secretary A Jayathilak today, evaluated the situation and discussed methods to resolve the issue of smoke pollution emanating from the smouldering waste plant near Kochi city.

Meanwhile, a monitoring committee appointed by the High Court inspected the site on Saturday and said fire was doused at five sectors of the plant with efforts underway to extinguish it in the last two sectors.

The committee will submit its report to the High Court about its findings regarding the fire that broke out at the city corporation-run waste treatment plant on March 2.

On March 5, the district administration of Ernakulam declared a holiday for children in all schools in areas under Kochi corporation and the nearby municipalities and gram panchayats, as huge and thick clouds of toxic smoke billowing from the site engulfed the city.

"Fire has been doused at 90 per cent of the region inside the Brahmapuram waste plant. It was challenging as the fire had spread to the bottom of the waste heap. The smoke is now being controlled by pumping water into the pits, taken using excavators, among the waste heap," newly-appointed District Collector N S K Umesh said in a release.

The district administration said currently, 170 firemen, 32 excavator operators, 11 Navy personnel, four CIAL personnel, six personnel from BPCL, 71 Civil Defence personnel, 30 city corporation employees and 20 Home Guards are involved in the effort to douse the fire completely.

Twenty-three fire units, 32 excavators and three high-pressure pumps are currently being used for extinguishing the smoke.

Meanwhile, the expert committee which met today, evaluated that the current mechanism, used to douse the smoke from the smouldering fire, as the most effective method to tackle the menace.

"The meeting also discussed suggestions to douse the fire completely and to ensure that such incidents are not repeated. Direction has been issued to the Pollution Control Board to conduct a risk analysis on the toxic smoke generated," the release said.

Environmental scientists from the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), MG University, the fire and safety department of CUSAT, National Institute For Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST), experts from the Directorate of Environment and Climate Change, members of Disaster Management authorities, fire and rescue services personnel, various central state pollution control board officials took part in the expert committee meet.

The state government also announced that the survey in the areas around Brahmapuram to assess the health-related problems caused by the smoke pollution will begin from Tuesday.

Health Minister Veena George chaired a comprehensive meeting of the department today to evaluate the situation and she urged the children, elderly people, pregnant women and those with other diseases to wear a face mask while going out.

George said the government will be able to identify those who are affected due to the smoke through the survey and ensure treatment.

The district team will prioritise the places and the field staff will be trained to do the house-to-house survey, in order to analyse what is the real situation on the ground, the government had earlier said.

The health department has also earmarked a 'smoke casualty' in hospitals and has earmarked 100 beds in General Hospital, Ernakulam, and 20 beds in Taluk Hospital, Tripunithura for patients coming from the affected areas.

The Kerala government had on Friday announced an action plan to be implemented on a war footing to ensure that such incidents would not happen anymore in the state.

Under the 82-days-long action plan, stringent measures would be taken for the source-level management of biodegradable waste and for the door-to-door collection of non-biodegradable waste in the state.

According to local body officials, such incidents of fire happen every year around this time due to extreme heat. PTI

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