Five die after exposure to ammonia gas at Sri Lankan latex factory


Five die after exposure to ammonia gas at Sri Lankan latex factory

our reporters

23 April 2018

Two workers and three local residents died on April 19 when they were exposed to ammonia gas at a latex rubber factory in Ballapitiya village, Horana, 25 kilometres from Colombo. Around 15 others were also hospitalised after inhaling the toxic fumes.

Workers and villagers told WSWS reporters that no proper safety measures were in place at the plant.

The latex rubber factory in Ballapitiya

The factory, owned by S and C Latex (Private) Limited, employs about 70 workers. It prepares products for Bettans Kids, a well-known brand in South Asia.

W. Ariyapala, a 40-year-old worker who was cleaning waste from a waste tank, lost consciousness after being exposed to ammonia effluent. He fell into the tank at around 1 p.m. Eyewitnesses said Waruna Chandrasekara, a 33-year-old supervisor at the factory who rushed to Ariyapala’s aid, also collapsed and fell into the tank.

After hearing workers shout for help, Priyanatha Kumara (43), Dilip Lokupathirage (31) and Lal Pushpakumara (28) and others attempted to assist but also fell into the tank.

After breaking the cover above the tank and letting the gas disperse, local residents were able to take the victims out. All of them, however, had died.

Workers and neighbours said the factory management, including the plant’s owner Sarath Wijeratne, were in the premises at the time, but did nothing to rescue the victims. As villagers expressed their anger, Wijeratne fled the scene.

Residents said the management did not even provide a vehicle for the victims, instead calling police to protect the factory. Neighbours took the victims to the hospital with the assistance of passing vehicles.

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