Odisha Govt Orders Probe Into Gas Leak In Prawn Processing Unit

Over 100 Workers, Mostly Women, Hospitalised

Balasore: The Odisha government on Thursday ordered a probe into the toxic gas leak in a prawn processing plant at Panapana under Khantapada police limits in Balasore district the previous evening.

Over 100 workers, mostly women, were taken ill after coming in contact with the toxic gas in the factory owned by Falcon Marine Exports, a leading aquaculture firm dealing with production, processing and export of fresh and frozen seafood.

Talking to mediapersons after visiting the ailing women at Fakir Mohan Medical College and Hospital here, Labour and Employees’ State Insurance Minister Sushant Singh said that he has directed the Labour Commissioner to probe the incident and ascertain whether minors were engaged in the factor when the mishap took place.

On this basis of his report, action will be taken against those responsible for the incident, he added.

Following the incident, the district administration sealed the plant this morning while the police have detained seven plant officials for interrogation.

Director General of Police B K Sharma, in a tweet last night, informed that a case had been registered at Khantapada police station while the district SP and IG, Eastern Range, Diptesh Patnaik, visited the plant for an inspection and later the Fakir Mohan Medical College and Hospital to inquire about the condition of the women workers. Besides, a six-member special forensic team has been sent from Bhubaneswar to assist the police in their investigation.

Till reports last came in, three platoons of police have been deployed inside the plant premises while the forensic team from Bhubaneswar has begun investigation.

According to sources, the woman workers engaged in processing prawns complained of uneasiness and difficulty in breathing while some of them fell unconscious. Following the incident, the plant authorities rushed them Khantapada community health centre (CHC) and later to the Fakir Mohan Medical College and Hospital.

Balasore Collector K Sudarshan Chakravarthy, who rushed to the plant soon after the incident which took place around 9 pm, said that the ailing women are being treated at the Balsore hospital. “Apart from doctors from nearby hospitals, some more doctors have also been mobilised from Baripada and SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack,” he added.

Terming the incident unfortunate, chairman of Falcon Marine Exports Tara Patnaik claimed that there was no gas leak inside the factory and the mishap occurred due to overdose of bleaching powder. “The gas emanated after bleaching power came in contact with water. The women workers were affected as they were working inside the close AC room,” he added.

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