Kochi left breathless as smoke blankets city after Brahmapuram waste plant catches fire

The Brahmapuram plant caught fire at around 4.30pm on Friday. However, fire officials are still struggling to put out the fire.
Kochi left breathless as smoke blankets city after Brahmapuram waste plant catches fire
Kochi left breathless as smoke blankets city after Brahmapuram waste plant catches fire
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A major fire which broke out at Brahmapuram waste management plant in Kochi on Friday evening and engulfed the city in cloud of smoke for many hours on Saturday morning. Residents in areas like MG Road, Vyttila, Maradu and Panampilly Nagar in Kochi experienced various health issues since early morning hours. People in these areas mainly complained about breathing difficulties and irritation in the eyes. 

The smoke emitting from Brahmapuram plant which houses tons of waste including tonnes of plastic has been cited as the reason behind this. This was the fourth major fire break out in the plant since last month. The fire broke out on Friday evening at around 4.30pm. However, even after about 20 hours, authorities have not been able to fully put out the fire.

The fire and rescue officials are finding it difficult to put out fire completely. “Since the fire has spread to a large area of garbage heap, it is not possible for the fire tenders of fire and rescue departments to put out the fire completely. This is emitting heavy smoke in the area, which even spread to city limits. We have brought earth movers to make way in between the garbage heaps so that fire tenders can move in between and put out the fire,” Sheela Devi, deputy collector (disaster management) to TNM.

The waste management plant which is situated in Vadavukondu-Puthencruz panchayat is 200 meters from a residential area. “People in the area are finding it extremely difficult to stay here as there are frequent fires in Brahmapuram plant. Many have left their houses to avoid health troubles on Friday itself. If the smoke cannot be put under control by evening, we will evacuate other people too,” told panchayat president Velayudhan PK to TNM.

With several residents experiencing breathing difficulties because of the smoke, district administration has taken steps ease the issue. Special medical units have been opened up in various parts of the city including Vyttila Mobility Hub, Thrikkakara and Kakkanad. “Two mobile health squad teams have also been deployed to monitor busy places in the city,” told district medical officer Dr Kuttapan to TNM.

Though it is not yet clear how the blaze could have broken out, Kochi Corporation authorities said that there might be some foul play in the issue. “This case is peculiar, the fire did not just start from one point. Many parts of the large garbage heap was simultaneously on fire at the same time,” said Corporation opposition leader KJ Antony to the media while visiting the spot.

Taking these allegations and suspicions into consideration, the district administration had directed police to probe the matter. “The police has been directed to start an inquiry into the matter. There are presently 15 fire tenders in the spot, district administration has also sought help from Indian Navy and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (BPCL) to let more fire tenders,” said district Collector K Mohammed Y Safirulla to media after visiting the spot. The state revenue minister has asked the district Collector to submit a report on the fire break out.

Though the National Green Tribunal (NGT) which inspected the plant last month said that it was satisfied over the efforts of city corporation and government, it declined to give it a clean chit.

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