Fire service officials say that the density of gas in the air, leaked from a Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) fertiliser factory in Chittagong has decreased.The gas had spread across to the other bank of the river Karnaphuli after the leak at the factory adjacent to Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Ltd (CUFL) factory around 10pm on Monday.At least 52 people who fell ill after inhaling the ammonia gas had been admitted to Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH) since then.Nine of them later checked out after receiving treatment until Tuesday afternoon, said the hospital police outpost’s Nayek Abdul Hamid.The patients include 17 members of Ansar and VDP, 12 members of the Armed Police Battalion (APBn).
The APBn members were on duty at the port city’s Shah Amanat International Airport and the Ansar members were deputed at the factory, locally known as DAP factory, and at a nearby factory of Karnaphuli Fertiliser Company Limited (KAFCO).The district’s Deputy Commissioner Mejbah Uddin has formed a three-strong committee, led by Additional District Magistrate Mominur Rashid, to look into the gas leak.The team has started its work, he said on Tuesday.Several officials from the Fire Service and the factory, all seeking anonymity, said that the leakage appeared in the DAP-1 unit, which has a capacity of holding 500 tonnes ammonia gas, after it was filled with only 300 tonnes of ammonia.Only one of the three tanks at the factory premises had leaked, Agrabad Fire Service official Jasim Uddin said, adding that the two others were in perfect condition.A part of the affected tank had ruptured in an explosion and the gas started to leak, said another Fire Service official Abul Kalam on Tuesday.”There is no more gas in the tank. The ammonia was kept inside in minus 30 degree centigrade. After the explosion, the gas was seen floating around the tank like dense fogget. Asked how they had decreased the density of the gas in the air, Kalam said, “We are spraying water using ground monitor and two-in-one ground phase. Around 4am, the gas density depleted to 60 percent and around 8am it was 10 percent.”He said the situation would return to normal later in the day.Locals at Patenga, EPZ, port and other nearby areas said they had smelled the gas hours within the accident.Idris Ali, an associate professor at Government Hazi Mohammad Mohsin College’s chemistry department, said exposure to ammonia could cause slackening, vomiting and breathing problems.He recommended using protective masks.Chittagong’s DC Mejbah Uddin on Monday night had visited the sick at CMCH. He told bdnews24.com at the time, “None of them are in critical condition. We have alerted the people living in the areas adjacent to the factory about the situation.”Meanwhile, Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC) on Tuesday formed a ‘technical investigation committee’ to find out the cause of the accident.After visiting the DAP-1 unit earlier in the day, BCIC Chairman Mohammad Iqbal told reporters that the 10-member team will also determine the extent of damage and find those responsible.”It will also find out whether the other gas tanks at DAP-1 and DAP-2 are in any danger and make specific recommendations to avoid such accidents in future.”He said the committee, led by BCIC Director (Technical and Engineering) Ali Akkas, was given three days to submit its report.The panel also has members from CUFL, KAFCO, BUET, Department of Environment, Fire Service and Chittagong district administration.