Since midnight on Saturday, February 16th, panic gripped the people residing in many coastal villages of Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, and Kanyakumari districts when rumors purporting to radiation leak in Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) spread like wildfire. People in the neighboring villages of Kudankulam claimed that an explosion occurred in the nuclear plant when the scientists attempted to make it critical.
Church bells tolled. Half-awake villagers, mostly fishermen scurried for safety with their families. Public address systems blared requesting people to assemble at open spaces. The terrified folks of Idinthakarai assembled at their most common fast site.
Terrified people using their mobiles made frantic calls to their relatives and friends living elsewhere to help them evacuate their villages. Many residents of Kovalam, Chinna Muttam, Pallam villages in Kanyakumari district, Vijayapathi, Avudayalpuram and several coastal hamlets in Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi districts left their villages. They traveled in available trucks and other vehicles to nearby Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Kanyakumari, Nagercoil in Tamilnadu, and to distant towns such as Kollam, and Tiruvananthapuram in Kerala.
The police said rumor sparked by unidentified mischief mongers triggered the midnight panic.
Deccan Chronicle quotes KKNPP site director R.S. Sundar: “There is no radiation leak whatsoever. Around 4000 people were in the plant today. It is unfortunate that such rumors are being floated, and people believe them.”
While the authorities point their fingers at the anti-nuke activists for the rumors, People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy said conflicting statements from central ministers, and plant officials had triggered the alarm among the fishermen.
Mr. Sundar, reacting to the charges of technical faults in the plant, said, “We cannot say technically everything is alright. Integrated checks on several components of the plant are being conducted, and we are fine-tuning the testing process. It will take some more days for the tests to be completed after which the work would be audited by regulators.”
- Rumours on Kudankulam radiation leak trigger scare (deccanchronicle.com)
- Radiation leak rumour in KKNPP triggers panic (news.webindia123.com)
- First unit of Kudankulam plant undergoing tests (thehindu.com)
- #India-Villagers Wail Against Nuclear Power (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- No blast or deaths at Kudankulam nuclear plant: India’s nuclear chief to NDTV (ndtv.com)
- Koodankulam: Shoddy equipment develops leaks (tvaraj.com)