Kochi: Oxygen filling stations in Kerala are facing a shortage of liquid oxygen as the demand-supply gap widened for the commodity.
Even hospitals with their own facilities to store and supply liquid oxygen are now dependent on oxygen cylinders to meet their daily requirements.
Officials of the Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organization (PESO), responsible for monitoring oxygen availability, ruled out the claims of shortage in liquid oxygen. The organization said Kerala has been producing more oxygen in gaseous state, thus overcoming the shortage of liquid oxygen.
Thiruvananthapuram-based centralized oxygen war room has been responsible for streamlining the supply of oxygen. Several hospitals were supplied oxygen at the last moment before they ran out of the life-saving compound.
Oxygen suppliers, meanwhile, warned that further shortage of liquid oxygen would lead to a precarious situation in the state.
There were complaints of patients bedridden at their respective residences being denied adequate oxygen supply. A government order, saying oxygen needed to be supplied only to hospitals, has been denying oxygen to such patients, it was alleged.
Kerala, on Wednesday, reported a single-day spike of 43,529 new COVID-19 cases, and put the test positivity rate at an all-time high of 29.75 per cent. The state also added 95 more deaths, taking the toll to 6,053.
Two more air separation units
The state government, meanwhile, was trying to operate existing air separation units (ASU) in full capacity, besides approving new units to overcome the oxygen crisis. PESO has approved two new ASU plants and a storage and supply centre.
The ASU plants would be set up at Malappuram and Kochuveli in Thiruvananthapuram, while the centre to store liquid oxygen would come up at West Hill in Kozhikode. The facility would have a capacity to fill 50 cylinders a day.
Meanwhile, the production capacity of Inox Air Products at Kanjikode in Palakkad has been ramped up to 161 tonnes.
Suppliers demand NRK help
In a separate but related development, oxygen suppliers demanded the state government to seek the help of expat Keralites to increase the availability of oxygen.
They claimed that liquid oxygen was available overseas, and it could be brought in tankers to Kerala.