A major gas leak at a polymer factory near Visakhapatnam has killed eleven people and affected thousands in the region, the central government said Thursday. A criminal case was filed against the management of the factory, the Press Trust of India reported, citing local police officials.
Styrene gas, used to make plastic polystyrene, fiberglass, rubber and latex, leaked from LG Polymers India Pvt. Ltd. in the village of RR Venkatapuram in Gopalapatnam in the early hours of Thursday, affecting villages within a five km radius. A refrigeration unit, attached to two styrene tanks, malfunctioned as the facility was prepared for reopening after the lockout restrictions were relaxed.
The government of Andhra Pradesh has ordered an investigation into the incident. Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy held a high-level review meeting to take stock of the situation and ordered an investigation into the matter, Police Director General Dr Gautam Sawang said. There were no more gas leaks and the situation is now “stable and under control”, he said.
At least 246 people with health complications are under treatment at King George Hospital in Visakhapatnam, and 20 of them are on life support, he told reporters after the meeting with the chief minister.
“How the gas leaked and why the plant neutralizer was not effective in containing the leak will all be investigated. Styrene, however, is not a poisonous gas and can only be fatal if inhaled. in excess, âSawang said.
According to sources, the gas leak occurred as workers at the plant were preparing to reopen the facility after the lockdown restrictions were relaxed. The 20 or so workers at the factory were familiar with the safety protocol and took appropriate action and therefore did not suffer, sources said.
Smoke rises from the LG Polymers plant near Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, in the early hours of Thursday, May 7, 2020 (Source: ANI)
Dawn saw grim scenes as visibly ailing people rushed for medical assistance in auto rickshaws and two-wheelers as officials attempted to help them with available first aid.
In total, more than 800 people were evacuated from RR Venkatapuram, most of them needing only first aid. Hundreds of villagers, mostly children, suffered from the effects of the gas leak including eye irritation, shortness of breath, nausea and rashes. Several police officers, who came for the rescue operation, also showed symptoms.
State Industries Minister Mekapati Goutham Reddy said the LG Polymers plant was supposed to reopen on Thursday after the lockdown. “We are trying to contact the management of the (South Korean) company … Our immediate priority is to stop the leak and ensure adequate health insurance for those affected,” he said.