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Ramakanta Biswas

Balasore: As many as 88 workers, mostly women, engaged in a prawn processing factory owned by Falcon Marine Exports in Khantapada area of Balasore district were hospitalised on Wednesday reportedly after Chlorine gas leak, informed the district collector.

The incident took place at the prawn processing factory located at Panapana. As per sources, all the affected contractual workers were initially admitted to Khantapada community health centre (CHC) and later shifted to Balasore district headquarters hospital.

According to sources, the woman workers were busy in their work when they complained of uneasiness and difficulty in breathing. The company authorities immediately rushed the affected women to Khantapada CHC.

Balasore Collector K Sudarshan Chakravarthy and Sadar SDPO immediately reached the spot to take stock of the situation.

"We learnt about the incident at around 9 pm and immediately evacuated all the workers for treatment. As of now, around a hundred patients are undergoing treatment at the hospital and no one is in danger. All doctors of the DHH have been engaged for the treatment of the patients. Some other doctors have also been mobilised from Mayurbhanj and Cuttack SCB. Even though it is not clear why the incident happened, it is suspected to have happened due to leakage of Chlorine gas." said  Chakravarthy.

On allegations of engagement of minors for work in the factory, the district collector said that investigation will be carried out into the matter.

"A total of 88 patients have been taken ill following a gas leak in the prawn processing factory and most are undergoing treatment at Balasore DHH. All the patients are stable and their health condition is gradually improving," said Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) Bannerjee Prasad Chhotray.

“It is learnt that the mishap occurred following a gas leak. However, we have not inquired into it so far. At present, our focus is to treat the affected workers,” said Balasore ADM Sambit Kumar Nayak.

“The condition of all the affected workers is stable now. We will recheck them and refer them to SCB Medical College and Hospital if needed,” said Balasore hospital superintendent Sudhir Ghosh.

Falcon Marine Exports chairman Tara Patnaik termed the incident unfortunate and clarified, "There was no gas leak inside the factory and the mishap occurred due to bleaching powder. Company authorities are taking all steps and investigation is also being carried out into the matter."

Odisha Police DG BK Sharma informed that the prawn factory has been sealed off and as many as 7 employees of the unit have been detained for interrogation. A case has been registered against the company at Khantapada Police Station.

Labour Minister Sushant Singh said Labour Commissioner will investigate the incident and also find out whether children were working in the factory. Singh informed that stern action will be taken against those responsible for the accident.

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