Brahmapuram fire: India’s Kochi city covered in toxic haze from waste dump fire

Indian firefighters are trying to put out a fire at a waste plant which has led to a toxic smoke cover over many areas in Kochi city in Kerala state.

The fire began last week at a local waste management plant which processes tonnes of waste every day.

Residents have been advised to remain indoors and use N-95 masks if they step out.

Local authorities have also announced that schools will be shut for younger children.

In an update on Sunday, the state government had said that the fire was under control and would be extinguished soon.

Fires are often reported at massive landfills in many parts of India, mostly because of the methane generated as the waste decomposes.

The Brahmapuram waste plant, located near the edge of Kochi city, is known for the massive mounds of waste on its premises. The plant is owned and operated by Kochi city authorities.

Officials say fires here are common at this time of the year due to the extreme heat. Locals have protested earlier against the fires and the alleged health hazard caused by the burning of plastic here.

It’s not clear yet what led to the latest fire. A firefighter told the Press Trust of India that layers of plastic had heated up underneath the mounds of waste, delaying the operation.

The smoke generated by the fire was also causing nausea and dizziness among the firefighters. At least 20 officials from the fire department had developed breathing issues from exposure to the toxic smoke, reports said.

The state’s health minister Veena George has advised elderly people, children, pregnant women and those with respiratory issues to avoid exposure to the smoke.

Ms George said the administration had made arrangements in all of the city’s hospitals to treat patients with respiratory diseases but added that no major health issues had been reported so far.

The city police has launched an investigation into the fire. The state’s pollution control board has issued a notice to local authorities, asking them to pay 18 million rupees ($220,000; £182,798) as penalty for failing to follow waste management rules.

BBC

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