As the local administration continues to battle the raging fire at the Brahmapuram waste plant here, an irritating smoke generated from there forced the state government on Saturday to urge the people of its neighbourhood to stay indoors tomorrow as a precaution against the unhealthy smog.
Ernakulam district Collector Dr Renu Raj said the efforts are on to douse the fire, which broke out two days ago, and expressed hope that the situation could be brought under control by Sunday evening.
Amid concerns over the worsening air quality in Kochi, the collector appealed to the people to stay home on Sunday to protect themselves from the smoke emanating from the waste plant.
”The administration is fully prepared to tackle any sort of health emergency arising out of the current situation”, Raj told reporters here after attending a high-level meeting convened by state Chief Secretary V P Joy and attended by officials of the various departments.
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At the meeting, the Chief Secretary directed the Kochi City Police Commissioner to probe the reasons behind the fire at the plant. At the meeting, it was also decided to deploy more fire tenders to douse the blaze, the Collector said.
”Currently, 20 fire tenders are deployed at the site. Directions have been issued to deploy additional fire tenders from the Cochin Port Trust and other Public Sector Units in the area to bring the situation under control. Besides, water will be pumped from the nearby river using powerful motors,” the Collector said.
Spelling out the steps taken by the administration to deal with the situation, the Collector said the spraying of water using a helicopter to douse the fire did not yield desired result due to the ”smouldering fire” –burning slowly with smoke but without flames– in the plastic waste mount and it has been put on hold for the time being.
The fire broke out in the waste dumped at the plant on Thursday.
Officials said such incidents happen every year around this time due to the extreme heat.
Earlier, the worsening air quality situation in the coastal city prompted the Kochi Corporation authorities to seek the help of the Indian Navy to douse the fire.
In a tweet, a Defence spokesperson said the Navy was committed to extending all possible help to bring the situation under control.
Naval Fire Fighting Services were immediately pressed into action on Friday and Naval fire tenders were deployed at the site to augment the efforts of the local administration, he said.
”@indiannavy joins the firefighting efforts to douse the massive #fire at #Brahmapuram WasteTreatmentPlant along with Govt. of #Kerala. With its skilled personnel & specialised eqpt. @IN_HQSNC is committed to extending all possible asst. to bring the situation under control”, the Defence spokesman said in a tweet.
In a statement, the Defence spokesman later said an aerial recce by a Naval helicopter was undertaken to assess the extent of fire and additional firefighting teams and resources have been activated to augment the efforts of the district administration.
Continuing with the rescue efforts, aerial fire fighting was undertaken on Saturday and a Naval ALH (Advanced Light Helicopter) of INS Garuda was deployed with Large Area Aerial Liquid Dispersion Equipment (LAALDE) to drop water buckets on the affected areas.
”More than 5,000 litres of water have been sprayed in the active fire zones. All efforts are in progress with the local agencies and authorities to control the spread of fire”, it said.
The Ernakulam District Collector said the help of the Air Force would be sought to douse the fire– if the civic administration fails to manage the situation.
The district administration, through the State Disaster Management Authority, has held discussions with the Air Force in this regard, officials said.
Ranjit Thampy, a Kochi resident, said that toxic smoke was affecting the health of the people living in the city and its neighbourhood.
In a Facebook post, he claimed that visibility was very poor in parts of Kochi on Saturday morning and there was a bad smell too.
”People are forced to breathe toxic air. Today morning it’s really bad and pathetic,” Thampy said in the post.