Nearly 500 people complained of burning eyes and nausea in Madhya Pradesh Sunday after allegedly inhaling toxic gas, the source of which remains unknown.
"Around 200 people in Kirat Nagar, Mendua and Nayapara Tola villages complained of vomiting and burning sensation in their eyes perhaps after inhaling gas that emanated from an unidentified source," district collector Arun Kumar Bhatt told IANS by phone.
The people from the neighbouring Raisen district's three villages were immediately brought to Bhopal's J.P. Hospital for treatment and discharged after first aid, including eye drops and general medicines.
The leakage, suspected to have occurred near Bangrasia on the Bhopal-Bhojpur road, may have been caused by some gas emanating from some factory near the village.
"The air started to smell. Soon everyone in the village felt a burning sensation in the eyes. Many started coughing and feeling breathless," said Bablu, a resident of Nayapura.
Bhatt added: "The administration has taken necessary steps and there is no reason to panic. No one exposed to the gas is serious and almost all of them have been sent back to their homes after necessary medicines.
"The administration has started the hunt for the source of gas leakage but most of the factories are closed today being Sunday. A team of doctors and environment experts from the State Pollution Board has also been rushed to the spot and are taking care of the situation."
Meanwhile, in a late night development, the state government Sunday announced a one-man inquiry headed by principal secretary (Housing and Environment) P.D. Meena to probe the incident.
"The committee will inquire into the causes and the source of the leakage. It will also look into the role of the district administration, the police and the Pollution Control Board in providing instant relief to the victims," an official release said.
The report would have to be submitted within a month.
While NGOs suspect it to be a case of yet another industrial disaster - not as severe as the Bhopal gas tragedy, there are also reports of leakage from a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) tanker carrying gas to make tear gas shells.
The Bhopal gas tragedy in December 1984 occurred when 40 tonnes of deadly methyl-iso-cyanate gushed out of the Union Carbide's pesticide plant, killing 15,000 people.