A major gas leak in a polymer company in Visakhapatnam has led to death of at 11 people, including a child and two senior citizens. Two of them fell into well while trying to escape and died.
Over 320 have been hospitalized following the leak, which took place at LG Polymers chemical plant owned at R R Venkatapuram around 2.30 am on Thursday after they inhaled toxic PVC gas (or Styrene) leaked from LG Polymers. Styrene gas is used to make plastics and rubber and can be dangerous. The gas had leaked out of two 5,000-tonne tanks that had been unattended due to coronavirus lockdown in place since late March. The plant was reopened after easing of the lockdown regulations without proper safety measures and adequate maintenance before starting production work led to the tragedy. The plant is owned by the South Korean company LG Corp.
At least 11 people had died from toxic gas exposure and that 320 others were affected by the gas to varying degrees, including some who are in intensive care. The deceased were identified as Krishnamurthy (73), Shreya (6), Grisha (9), Gangaraju (48) , Chandramouli (19), Narayanamma (39) and Narasamma (43). Some unconfirmed reports estimated that around 1,000 people were affected by the gas leak.
The toxic fumes have spread over five villages and officials have been evacuating people from surrounding areas. As the gas spread, residents ran out of their homes in panic. Hordes of people came out of their houses faces covered, ambulances rushing towards the the affected areas. Video footage showed dozens of men and women lying unconscious in the street. Visuals of a stray dog struggling to use its legs to stand before collapsing on the floor, two sisters tightly hugging each other, a cop choking, a daughter desperately trying to revive her mother collapsed on the street by puming her heart were disturbing. It was one horrific and tragic scene. People fell like a pack of cards, some fell off their bikes, some morning walkers collapsed inhaling the toxic fumes, children and women were found unconsicous on the pavements.
Hundreds of people have been taken to hospital – many complaining of a burning sensation in the eyes, nausea and breathing problems. Ambulances, fire engines and policemen reached the chemical plant. Residents of Simhachalam, Gopalapatnam, Vepagunta have been evacuated as National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams have reached the spot. Chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy is closely monitoring the situation and is rushing to the Port City.
Of the 320 gas leak victims, around 193 are undergoing treatment at King’s George Hospital, 66 at private hopsitals and another 57 at various health centers. The KGH hospital in Vizag had to grapple with a swarm of patients cramming hospital emergency rooms with more than 2 gas victims being treated in one bed. There were children everywhere, often two to three to a bed. Some were brothers and sisters.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday called up Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy to inquire about the situation. Jagan reportedly informed the Prime Minister that the situation was under control and that people in the nearby villages were evacuated. Modi expressed his condolences for the families of the deceased and issued instructions for proper treatment and assistance to be given to those who have taken ill. Modi also spoke to Union home ministry and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to take stock of the situation in Vizag arising out of the gas leak. The prime minister has also convened a meeting of the National Disaster Management Authority at 11 am in wake of the situation, the PMO said.
The prime minister wrote on Twitter that he spoke with Union Home Ministry officials and National Disaster Management Authority regarding the situation “which is being monitored closely.” “Spoke to officials of MHA and NDMA regarding the situation in Visakhapatnam, which is being monitored closely. I pray for everyone’s safety and well-being in Visakhapatnam,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi @narendramodi.
Responding to the Vizag gas leak incident on Thursday, Home Minister Amit Shah said that he has spoken to the officials of MHA and NDMA regarding the situation in Visakhapatnam, “which is being monitored closely.” “The incident in Vizag is disturbing. Have spoken to the NDMA officials and concerned authorities. We are continuously and closely monitoring the situation. I pray for the well-being of the people of Visakhapatnam,” tweeted Amit Shah.
Andhra Pradesh Govenor Bishwabhushan Harichandan expressed anguish over the situation in Visakha. Bishwabhushan Harichandan advised the government to press in Red Cross volunteers to mitigate the crisis.