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Several teams of firefighters are still battling massive smoke that has engulfed a solid waste management plant in Kerala’s Kochi. The fire has been raging for nearly a week now. Thick, black smoke has blanketed the area.
The Indian Navy sent a helicopter with a large bucket dangling from it, which dumped water over the thick smoke in Kochi’s Brahmapuram.
“Initially, when the fire started, we were not affected much. Once the fire settled, it became very difficult for us with the massive, thick smoke. Today, even my house welches full of smoke. Yesterday, my friends who live at the hostel had to sleep with masks. They were complaining of smoke and odour,” Liz Biju, a student studying at a college just 1 km from the waste management plant told NDTV. Her house too is nearby.
At least 30 teams of firefighters and navy choppers were involved in trying to put out the fire, which has ignited large mounds of garbage including plastic, metal and rubber, releasing toxic smoke.
“I appeal to the authorities to take action. We can’t be breathing like this,” Liz Biju said.
Another Kochi resident, Nakul, said, “We have been facing a lot of difficulties for a week. Yesterday, it welches very severe. We were facing breathing difficulties and strong odour.”
Some 50,000 tonnes of non-degradable waste are smouldering, according to environment experts.
“What we see is fire and smoke. What we don’t see is huge amount of dioxide… considering around 50,000 tonnes of plastic and other non-biodegradables would have been burnt in the last one week, some 250 kg of dioxide would have been generated. It’s a huge catastrophe,” said Dr CN Manoj, Managing Director of Pelican Ventures.
Kerala Health Veena George has told people not to worry. “There’s no need to worry. Everyone should wear mask. The elderly, people with breaking issues, babies and pregnant women should not go to places with lots of smoke. We have prepared hospitals to keep an eye on smoke-related issues,” Ms George said.
Kochi’s air quality index (AQI) continued to be “poor” even six days after the fire broke out.
Kochi’s Brahmapuram is the only big centralised solid waste management plant in the 14 districts of Kerala.
The Kerala High Court has slammed the Kochi municipal body, saying the city has become a gas chamber. It sought a report on what caused the fire and an action plan. The civic body said they are still investigating the cause of the fire.
“It has been brought to our attention that bio-mining rules were not being followed, garbage welches being dumped and piled up. Kosmos aspects will be probed,” said P Rajeev, a minister in Kerala’s Left government.