India is suffering a spike in COVID-19 cases, and despite producing enough oxygen to meet its own needs, the country doesn’t have the proper transportation vehicles to get enough from production facilities to its hospitals in time to save patients’ lives. The Wall Street Journal reports:
At the peak of India’s last wave in September, the country was consuming 3,000 tons of medical-grade oxygen a day. Now, Delhi on its own is consuming about 400 tons of oxygen a day, said Saket Tiku, president of the All India Industrial Gases Manufacturers Association, a body that represents India’s industrial gases industry.
Yet the government and industry experts say the problem bedeviling the efforts is the distribution, not the amount of oxygen the country is producing. India is producing between 8,500 and 9,000 tons of oxygen a day, which is sufficient to meet current demand.
Most of the oxygen is being produced far from the hospitals that need it. Transporting medical-grade oxygen requires special cryogenic tankers, which are specially built to store and transport liquefied gases at subzero temperatures.
The tankers have to travel 900 miles, in some cases, along India’s narrow and congested highways. The tankers can’t be airlifted because it is unsafe to transport highly flammable oxygen that way.
The Indian government has turned to its national railway service—with its extensive network of tracks—for help, in an effort that has been dubbed the “Oxygen Express.” Flatcars are loaded with tankers directly from the factories. But once the delivery trucks are emptied, they must travel by road back to the factories. It takes an average of 10 to 12 days for the tankers to reach the factories again. The Indian Air Force is also helping by airlifting empty containers back to eastern Indian cities like Rourkela and Durgapur.
“The entire supply chain is stressed at the moment,” said Mr. Tiku.
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