Five dead, 100 take ill after ammonia gas tanker leak near Ludhiana

An ammonia gas tanker leaked early on Saturday near Ludhiana killing five  people. (HT Photo)

A tanker carrying liquid ammonia hit a bridge near Ludhiana in Punjab, resulting in a leak that left five dead and more than 100 others complaining of breathing problems, police said on Saturday.

The incident occurred in Doraha at 11pm on Friday. Valves atop the tanker were damaged as the driver tried to pass under the bridge and the ammonia began leaking.

Within minutes, ammonia spread through the air in a five-kilometre radius, causing major and minor injuries to the respiratory tracts, eyes and skin of people living in the area.

Soon after, the district administration sprang into action and ambulances and fire tenders from across Ludhiana district were sent to the spot. Water was poured on the tanker and around it to reduce the impact of the ammonia gas.

Realising the gravity of situation, the administration called in teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) from Laddowal in Ludhiana and Bathinda. The teams worked with local administration officials to take the injured to hospitals in Ludhiana, Khanna and Doraha.

While working to help people in the area, a senior police official and sub-divisional magistrate Payal Harjot Kaur too sustained injuries. Kaur’s driver rushed her to Sidhu hospital, where she was provided treatment. The police officer was admitted to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Ludhiana.

At around 6am, NDRF personnel and Punjab Police shifted the tanker to a vacant plot of land near Deep Nagar village, three kilometres from Doraha.

Traces of ammonia gas remained in the air near the bridge in Doraha even at 8.30am on Saturday and people were seen wearing masks.

An eyewitnesses told the Hindustan Times that more than 1,000 people were affected by the gas leak.

However, Khanna’s additional deputy commissioner said: “There are just five deaths and around 110 injured who are undergoing treatment at hospitals. The government will bear the expenses for the treatment of the injured.”

The driver of the tanker, which belongs to a private company and had a Gujarat registration number, is yet to be traced.