New Delhi: In a bid to meet the enormous demand for oxygen across the country, the Indian Railways is looking to ferry over 360 metric tonnes (MT) of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) by Tuesday, railways officials have told ThePrint.
One MT of medical-grade LMO is equal to 875.7 litres, and according to informal estimates, a hospital with up to 150 Covid-19 patients has an estimated requirement of up to 9 MT a day.
Therefore, one oxygen tanker is expected to cater to the oxygen demands of up to two medium-sized hospitals for a day.
Explaining the capacity of each tanker, on board trains dubbed the ‘Oxygen Express’ in which LMO is being supplied, Railway Board Chairman Suneet Sharma said, “Each tanker (on the Oxygen Express) carries about 15-16 MT. We have selected tankers that are up to a height of 3.5 m to meet clearances available with Railways. So far, we have moved 10 tankers, seven to Maharashtra and three to UP. We have transported almost 150 MT of oxygen to these two states.”
Between Sunday and Monday, up to 140 additional MT of LMO were in transit, according to railway officials.
“Currently, nine tankers are already running, of which five will reach Lucknow by tonight and the remaining four containers of LMO, which have already started from Bokaro, are expected to reach Lucknow tomorrow early,” a railway official said Sunday.
“So far, Oxygen Express trains have run between Mumbai to Vizag via Nagpur to Nashik and Lucknow to Bokaro and back. A total of 10 containers having nearly 150 MT of liquid oxygen have been carried so far,” the official added.
In addition to Maharashtra and UP, the Railways is “fully prepared” to ferry LMO across routes in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, the official said. “We are also mapping routes across other states that are approaching the Railways as well.”
The efforts come even as the Railways is grappling with a staff crunch as up to 93,000 of its employees have tested positive in the last 10 days.
Tankers headed for Delhi
As for Delhi, which is battling severe shortage of oxygen, the first Oxygen Express with four cryogenic tankers or 70 MT of LMO departed from Raigarh in Chhattisgarh Sunday night.
On the supply to Delhi, Sharma said, “Regarding Delhi, the talks are on, we are likely to move about four tankers from the Jindal Steel plant at Raigarh (in Chhattisgarh). I am told the tankers are getting loaded there, we have provided ready wagons and they will be moved as soon as they are ready.”
The Indian Railways’ decision to ferry four tankers to Delhi came a day after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Saturday requested his counterparts in other states to send whatever oxygen can be spared to Delhi.
Kejriwal has also asked industrialists to ensure the supply of cryogenic tankers to Delhi as the Railways has asked the Delhi government to arrange for tankers.
“There is a shortage of tankers at the moment,” the railway official quoted above said. “The Indian Railways is in a position to ferry LMO but needs states to arrange for tankers.”