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Chemical reaction scare

Purnea, March 18: The residents of Gulab Bagh Mandi, a village around half-a-kilometre away from Bihar Insecticides Limited (BIL), are spending sleepless nights. They are scared of health hazards because of the poisonous substance stored in the closed plant.

The factory has five underground tanks with gaping openings. They contain inflammable organic material, possibly organophosphorous pesticide (malathion), which is highly poisonous. Nauseating stench in the area hints at leakage of poisonous gas from the factory.

“As nobody takes care of the factory premises, theft is rampant. Hearing the news of the tsunami’s harmful effects spreading in Japan, I apprised the administration of the possibility of leakage of chemicals,” said Mohammed Sabir, a resident of a neighbouring village.

“The administration informed us that Section 144 has been clamped on the plant campus and no one should enter it. Neither have the gaping manholes been covered nor the open mouths of tanks been sealed till today,” Sabir added.

District magistrate N. Saravana told The Telegraph: “Taking serious note of the leakage of chemicals from the factory and its harmful effects, which is evident from a foul smell wafting in the air, a warning has been issued to every household to not to allow their children to enter the plant campus.” The open tanks and gaping manholes would be sealed shortly and the gate of the factory would be closed, he said.

Jahida Khatun, an eyewitness, said: “Children living in the vicinity used to sneak into the factory premises through the open gate, take out bottles of chemicals, light them for fun. One day, 12-year-old Murad took two bottles of liquid chemical and collided with another child. Murad suffered burn injuries on his face,” said.

Principal of Purnea College TVRK Rao said: “Malathion is a highly toxic organic compound. It can harm the internal system of the body if consumed by human beings through the food chain. Its deadly effects could also be seen over aquatic flora and fauna once it mixes with water of ponds or rivers during floods.”

Sprawling over 100 acres, BIL closed down completely in 1989.

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