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Scores Hospitalized After Gas Leak in India

Indian firemen and vehicles are gathered in a port trust area after a leak of chlorine gas in Mumbai, 14 Jul 2010

In India's financial hub, Mumbai, about 90 people turned ill and were treated in a hospital following a chlorine gas leak.

Officials say the chlorine leaked before dawn, Wednesday, from a cylinder which had been lying around for years at a warehouse owned by the Mumbai Port Trust in the city's Sewri industrial area.

Scores of people were rushed to the hospital when they turned sick after inhaling the gas. They included port workers, students living in a nearby college hostel and firefighters who came in to control the leak.

Chief Fire Officer Uday Tatkare says most of the people developed respiratory problems.

Tatakare says safety personnel have sprayed the site with water and ensured that the leaked gas moves towards the sea and not towards residential areas. However, residential buildings in the neighborhood were temporarily evacuated as a precaution.

The chairman of the Mumbai Port Trust, Rahul Asthana, says the gas cylinder was going to be auctioned.

"That is supposed to be an empty cylinder of chlorine. But sometimes you have residual chlorine and that leaked out. Unfortunately it did not leak out from the valve, it leaked out from the bottom of the cylinder, as a result of which chlorine leaked out into the atmosphere," said Asthana.

The Mumbai Port Trust says the cylinder had been imported years ago, but had never been claimed. Safety experts are now being brought in to safely handle dozens of more cylinders lying in the same warehouse for many years.

The accident has again raised questions about a lack of adequate safety standards in India, which is industrializing rapidly as its economy expands.