Hundreds in hospital after deadly gas leak at Indian chemical factory Visakhapatnam Gas:11 killed, 25 critical

  • Hundreds in hospital after deadly gas leak at Indian chemical factory
    Gas from LG Polymers plant in Andhra Pradesh leaked into nearby homes while families slept Hundreds in hospital after deadly gas leak at Indian chemical factory
By Deepak Dhawan
Publication date:
Print article

Visakhapatnam LG Polymers Gas Leakage Updates: All the unconscious people and those with breathing difficulties have been admitted to the King George Hospital in the city.

As the Visakhapatnam gas leak death toll reached 11 with at least 25 people admitted to hospitals in critical condition, the Centre has decided to dispatch a special team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) from Pune. The gas leak happened at the LG Polymer plant at Gopalapatnam on the outskirts of Visakhapatnam. Workers were preparing for the reopening of the plant today when gas started leaking in the early hours. An FIR has been registered against LG Polymers and an inquiry has been ordered.

While eight persons died due to inhaling the styrene gas, three were killed while trying to escape from the area. Thursday’s incident evoked memories of Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984 when a gas leak at a factory of US chemical firm Union Carbide killed thousands.

Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy announced Rs 1 crore compensation to the kin of the dead. The government will also offer jobs to people who are victims of the gas leak and the kin of the family of the dead. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took stock of the situation and assured all possible assistance to state Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy. The prime minister also chaired a meeting of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to assess the situation.

But B K Naik, the district hospitals coordinator, said at least 1,000 people had been sent to different hospitals, and that it was feared many others may be unconscious in their homes.

“Another thing is that it is still too early in the morning, and there are people who were sleeping inside their homes [around the gas leak] and are unconscious,” Naik told Agence France-Presse.

“The authorities are checking [in houses] as well. We are working to get people to the hospital. They need oxygenation and fresh air.”

Visakhapatnam is an industrial port city halfway between Kolkata and Chennai and has about 5 million residents. The wider region has a cluster of chemical factories, about which environmentalists have regularly raised concerns.

LG Corp released a statement in South Korea late on Thursday morning indicating gas had stopped leaking from the plant. “The gas leak situation is now under control and we are exploring all ways to provide speedy treatment for those who suffer from inhaling the leaked gas,” the statement said.

It confirmed the plant was not operating because of the lockdown, but said there were maintenance staff at the facility.

“While it’s true that the factory wasn’t operating as it was under lockdown, there were maintenance workers inside,” a company spokesman told AFP in Seoul. “A worker on night shift discovered the leak and reported it.”

Swarupa Rani, an assistant commissioner of police in Visakhapatnam, said local residents raised the alarm about 3:30am, saying there was gas in the air, and that police officers who rushed to the scene had to quickly retreat for fear of being poisoned.

“One could feel the gas in the air and it was not possible for any of us to stay there for more than a few minutes,” she said.

EAS Sarma, a former Indian finance secretary who lives a few kilometres from the residential area where the plant is located, said residents had been raising concerns for years about its safety.

“The industrial safety culture in this state is very poor and the regulatory bodies are very lax,” he said.

The Visakhapatnam corporation tweeted a request for citizens in the vicinity of the plant to stay indoors. Images posted on Twitter showed emergency  services including police officers, firefighters and ambulances in the area.