‘Special alert’ at ship breaking yard in Gujarat for flu

May 5th, 2009 - 6:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Gandhinagar, May 5 (IANS) The Gujarat government has sounded a “special alert” at Asia’s biggest ship breaking and recycling yard in Alang on India’s western coastline with health officials told to carry out thorough screening of foreign crews for swine flu.
“A special alert was sounded at Alang where 25,000 migrant labourers at the yard are at risk of contracting the disease,” a senior health official told IANS.

The Alang yard, 50 km from Bhavnagar, receives large vessels with a bare minimum crew of 30 to 40 seamen. However, these vessels anchor at various ports for days before getting beached at the breaking and recycling yard.

“The risk is more from the migrant labourers contracting the influenza A(H1N1) infection in (Alang), which has close to 25,000 labourers living in shanties close to the yard.

“If these labourers, if infected by the virus, travel to other parts of the state one can easily guess the magnitude of the problem that Gujarat could face compared to other states in the country,” the official said.

The state government has already put major ports - Kandla, Mundhra and Pipavav - under the scanner and health officials are closely screening foreign visitors and crew for the influenza A(H1N1) infection, which, according to the WHO, has already spread to 21 countries. However, there is no such case reported in India so far.

Alang yard receives around 30 small and large vessels every month for breaking with a high number of crew of various nationalities disembarking at the yard and then after going through the mandatory customs and other immigration formalities taking a flight back from Ahmedabad airport.

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