11 die, 300 hospitalised in Vizag after styrene gas leaks from polymer factory

In the villages closest to the LG plant located on the outskirts of Visakhapatnam city, visuals on social media early this morning showed people lying motionless on the streets, at least two had fallen into the drains.

A gas leak at a polymer plant in Visakhapatnam has killed 11 people and forced the evacuation of thousands of people in the 3-kilometre radius. The leakage of styrene gas, which causes nausea and dizziness, took place early on Thursday when the plant was preparing to resume production later today in view of the eased Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

In the villages closest to the plant located on the outskirts of the city, visuals on social media early this morning showed people lying motionless on the streets, at least two had fallen into the drains.

Elsewhere also, there were videos of parents carrying unconscious children in their arms on the streets and running to get medical help. Many others were seen dazed sitting on the pavements. Some more lay on the roads, a young woman among them was seen collapsing.

The municipal corporation tweeted that people in an area within approximately 3-kilometre radius of the plant were vulnerable.

The incident evoked memories of the gas leaked from a pesticide plant in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhopal in 1984. That incident, counted among one of the world’s worst industrial disasters, had killed 3,500 people.

In Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dialled Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and promised all the help that he would need. Jagan Mohan Reddy left Visakhapatnam soon after.

PM Modi also called a meeting of the National Disaster Management Authority that he leads. “I pray for everyone’s safety and well-being in Visakhapatnam,” PM Modi said in a tweet before the meeting started

According to news agency ANI, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) chief SN Pradhan said about 1,000 to 1,500 people had been evacuated by the authorities and more than 800 taken to hospital.

Most of the people taken to hospital were later discharged.

Visakhapatnam District Medical and Health Officer Tirumala Rao told reporters, around 2 pm that 300 people were still admitted to various hospitals.

Late afternoon, Pradhan told a news briefing in Delhi that 11 people had died in the incident.

Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has announced Rs 1 crore compensation for the next of kin of the dead besides Rs 10 lakh to people who have been put on ventilator and Rs 25,000 to those who were treated as outpatients. The chief minister also announced that a committee has been set up to probe the incident and the government was prepared to have the company shift to a different location if recommended by the panel.

Gas leaked at 2.30-3 am

The gas leak is reported to have been spotted around between 2.30am and 3 am at LG Polymers India Pvt Ltd facility at RR Venkatapuram area near Gopalapatnam.

Assistant commissioner of police Swaroopa Rani said many people who woke up to the pungent smell of the gas ran out. Many, mostly children and old people, fainted at home. Police teams that went to the villages initially had to retreat for fear of being poisoned.

Andhra industries minister M Goutham Reddy said styrene gas appeared to have leaked from the storage tank of the plant. It seems the cap of the storage tank came off and by the time the engineers sealed the gap and neutralised the liquid, the damage was done.

The company had been told to adhere to all safety protocols before reopening the plant after lockdown relaxations. “It is for the company to prove that there was no negligence on its part,” Reddy said.

South Korea-headquartered LG Chem said operations at the plant had been suspended because of a nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak and was preparing to resume operations.

“We are currently assessing the extent of the damage on residents in the town and are taking all necessary measures to protect residents and employees in collaboration with related organizations,” LG Chem, the owner of LG Polymers, said in a statement, according to news agency Reuters.

It said the spokesman separately said a night shift maintenance worker had discovered the leak from a tank. The cause of the leak is being investigated, the spokesman said.

Source: Hindustan Times


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