Kochi: Fire from Brahmapuram waste plant under control, thick smoke continues to persist

Aerial visuals of the site aired on various channels showed huge and thick plumes of smoke billowing from the site which appeared to be completely ravaged by the fire.

Kochi: Giant plumes of toxic smoke continued to rise from the Brahmapuram waste plant here on Sunday evening as hundreds of firefighters, including Naval personnel, battled to bring the blaze that has gone on for four days under control.

A senior police officer said that the fire appeared to be extinguished, but huge amounts of smoke was still rising from the site and therefore, it may not have been quelled completely.

Aerial visuals of the site aired on various channels showed huge and thick plumes of smoke billowing from the site which appeared to be completely ravaged by the fire.

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Meanwhile, the district administration declared Monday as a holiday for Anganwadis, kindergartens, day care centres and children of classes 1 to 7 of government, aided, unaided, CBSE and ICSE schools located in Kochi city and neighbouring gram panchayats and municipalities.

Earlier in the day, Kerala Industries Minister P Rajeeve said that the fire was under control and would hopefully be extinguished by evening.

He and State Health Minister Veena George said that the smoke due to the blaze was not a matter of concern.

Their announcements came while speaking to reporters after a high-level meeting at the Ernakulam District Collectorate here.

They said that people need not stay indoors as recommended on Saturday and can move out by taking precautions, like wearing N95 masks.

However, those with breathing problems, like asthma, the elderly, children and pregnant women should try and avoid getting exposed to the smoke and should wear masks if going out, the Ministers said.

George also said hospital records of the city do not indicate any medical cases due to the smoke.

Nevertheless, arrangements, like dedicated beds for those affected by the smoke generated due to the fire, have been made in all government hospitals and medical colleges in the city.

Besides, two oxygen parlours and a round the clock medical team of doctors have been put in place in Brahmapuram.

Regarding the decisions taken in the meeting, Rajeeve said that all stakeholders were of the view that there needs to be a coordinated effort to deal with such situations.

In lieu of that, it was decided to put in place a system comprising a coordination committee of representatives from the Kochi Corporation, fire services, police, health services, electricity board and fire safety officials of Bharat Petroleum and CIAL.

Also, it was decided in the meeting that a panel comprising officials of the corporation and the panchayat, where the waste plant is set up, and including the District Collector and the local MLA will meet every three months to discuss problems in that area.

After the prevailing issue is resolved, the corporation will also take urgent steps to ensure proper road connectivity to the area — another decision taken in the meeting according to Rajeeve.

The Minister further said as a result of the more than 3-day long fire, waste collection in Kochi has come to a standstill and therefore, in the meeting it was resolved that the corporation and the District Collector would take steps to put in place a temporary arrangement for removing garbage from the city.

The issue of bio-mining, which has not been taking place at the waste plant for some time, will be tackled by Local Self Government Minister M B Rajesh.

Earlier in the day, a fire officer engaged in the fire-fighting at the waste plant said it was taking time to quell the flames as there were layers of plastic underneath which got heated up and prevented the fire at the top from cooling down.

Lack of rains and wind also played spoilsport against the fire-fighting efforts and there was a second instance of a fire breaking out during the operations.

He said the fire tenders have been mobilised from divisions of other districts like Kottayam and Alappuzha.

In addition to all these, the phosgene gas generated by the fire is leading to nausea, dizziness among the firefighters which also affected operations.

According to police, 25 fire-fighting units, which included tenders from Thrissur, Kottayam and Idukki districts as well as those of the Indian Navy and Bharat Petroleum, battled the blaze since morning.

Air quality in parts of this port city was found to be poor this morning due to the fire.

According to the data on the Kerala Pollution Control Board website, the PM 2.5 and PM 10 particulates’ level in the air in Kochi were way above the prescribed standards.

The level of PM 2.5, tiny particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter that can enter deep into the lungs and even the bloodstream, was found to be 279.58 ug/m3, at around 8.30 AM today, as against the normal standard of 60.

PM 10, particles with diameter less than 10 micrometres, level were recorded at 324.65 as against a normal of 100.

The fire broke out in the waste dumped at the plant on Thursday.

Officials had maintained that such incidents happen every year around this time due to the extreme heat.

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