Kerala tanker blast toll rises to 7, driver to be arrested

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The death toll in the gas tanker blast at Chala here on Monday night rose to seven, with three more victims succumbing to their injuries on Thursday.

They were the husband and wife couple Abdul Rassack and Ramla, and Vazhayil Geetha, who underwent treatment at the Pariyaram medical college.

Two women — Rema, sister of Geetha, a native of Chala; and Nirmala, a native of Kadachira — who were shifted to Kozhi-kode medical college hospital from Pariyaram medical college under critical condition, had died of their injuries on Wednesday.

Two others — Sreelatha, wife of Kesavan, native of Chala, and Abdul Aziz — died on Tuesday. Omana, mother of Rema and Geetha, has been admitted to the MCH, Kozhikode, in a serious condition.

Meanwhile, the condition of nine victims undergoing treatment in Pariyaram medical college and three others admitted at the Kozhikode medical college, remained serious.

All of them suffered more than 80 per cent burns, say doctors.

The body of Abdul Aziz was buried on Wednesday. A terminally-ill patient, Abdul Aziz failed to escape to safety even after those around him fled, as he was bedridden.

The investigation team led by DySP P. Sukumaran said a team of officials led by the Edakkad circle inspector had left for Salem, Tamil Nadu, to arrest the driver of the vehicle who had fled the scene.

“The team already located the driver and we hope he would be taken into custody soon,” said Sukumaran.

“In the primary probe, it appeared that a leak from a valve of the tanker, after the accident, caused the blast,” he said.

It’s high time the state took measures to ensure the safety of the public by regulating the movement of hundreds of LPG tankers carrying highly inflammable substances, through busy roads and thickly populated areas.

Accidents involving LPG tankers were a regular affair in Vattappara curve near the varsity on NH-17 and at many curves in the bypass in Kozhikode and Kannur, experts said.

Vadakara Regional Trans-port Officer Rajeev Putha-lath told DC that it’s better to transport LPG and other inflammable substances by rail, as both sides of national highways are thickly populated.

“Dozens of LPG tan-kers camping on the outskirts of the cities should be given due attention. If thin-gs take a bad turn, the entire area would be wiped off.”

“Though we conduct ma-ny inquiries after such tra-gedies, we seldom implement the recommendations of inquiry commissions,” said C.E. Chakkunni, former president of Calicut Cham-ber of Commerce.

Hospitals ill-prepared to treat burns victims

Even as several persons battle burn injuries in hospitals in the aftermath of the Kannur tragedy, it has come to light that hospitals in the state are ill-prepared to deal with burns victims.

There are no burns units in district hospitals and most government medical colleges have only a plastic surgery department.

The Alappuzha Medical College doesn’t even have a plastic surgery department.

The director of Health Services has admitted that there is an acute shortage of surgeons in government hospitals.

“There is a shortage of 50 per cent surgeons. Burn care includes skin grafting, dealing with contracture and needs long-term care and isolation. It needs multi-specialty co-ordination also.

There was a suggestion during the tenure of the last government to set up a district-level burns care unit, but it did not take off,” said Dr Kumary G. Prema, the DHS.

She said that the taluk hospitals are equipped to handle burn injury cases. Among medical colleges, only Trivandrum and Kottayam medical colleges are equipped to handle burns cases, while Ernaku-lam General Hospital has an air-conditioned facility that can handle 12 patients at a time. In private sector, MIMS, Kozhikode and Ernakulam Medical Centre have separate burns care units.

Private hospitals are not keen on setting up a separate burns unit because they claim there are very few cases.

“All private hospitals with tertiary care facilities are in a position to handle burns cases and they can convert existing emergency care facility for burns victims if required,” said Dr J. Rajagopalan Nair, Indian Medical Association state secretary.

However, Dr Saji Mathew, a surgeon at the GH burns care unit, said that this ‘conversion’ is not feasible since burns units must have special facilities and trained staff.

Stricter NOC norms for new buildings

In the wake of the recent fire accidents in the state, the government has decided to introduce stricter norms for allotting NOCs to new buildings.

As per the revised norms, a committee with an assistant divisional officer will provide NOCs to single-storey buildings that are 10 metres high.

The members will include a station officer in charge of the local fire station, assistant station officer and a fireman.

The committee will have to provide NOC for the building within two days of inspecting it. If any discrepancy is noticed, the report should be forwarded to the headquarters of the Fire and Rescue Service.

For buildings up to 24 metres in height, a committee with a divisional officer will provide the NOCs. The members will include an assistant divisional officer and station officer.

The committee will have to provide NOC for the building within seven days after site inspection.

The final approval is to be given by the committee headed by a technical director of the Fire and Rescue Service within 10 days of the site inspection.

Other members include divisional officer of Fire and Rescue Station in Thi-ruvananthapuram and station officer at the headquarters.

The committee will inspect the site, building and equipment. It’ll take a decision within 15 days on applications found to have defects by other committees.

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