New Delhi: At least seven persons have died in a gas leak at the LG Polymers factory on the outskirts of Visakhapatnam Thursday. The factory is located in R.R. Venkatapuram village.
Preliminary reports from the area revealed that the leaked chemical was styrene, also known as PVC gas. The leak took place at approximately 2.30 am Thursday.
Speaking to ThePrint, Andhra Pradesh Director General of Police (DGP) Goutam Sawang confirmed that at least seven people died due to the chemical leak.
“While four died due to the gas leak, two passed away after falling down while trying to escape from the area and one person fell into a well,” he said.
Sawang further said several people had been taken to a nearby hospital but refused to provide an exact figure.
The DGP added that the area was sparsely populated and the gas was more of an irritant. The factory was opening Thursday after 40 days due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
“The unfortunate event took place past midnight when they tried to restart the polymer plant which is pretty old,” Bloomberg quoted P. V. Ramesh, secretary to the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, as having said. The government will issue new safety guidelines for factories being restarted after the lockdown to avoid more such accidents, Ramesh said.
Teams from India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) helped in the evacuations early Thursday morning, Director General S. N. Pradhan said, according to Bloomberg, adding that although the teams were still doing a door-to-door search, the “worst seems to be over”.
About 400 people have been hospitalised and three are on ventilators, Bloomberg reported, citing M.Venu Gopal Reddy, additional district magistrate of Visakhapatnam district.
Videos from the area have surfaced showing many people unconscious on the road and footpaths.
People being taken to hospital after they complained of burning sensation in eyes and breathing difficulties due to gas leak at LG Polymers industry in Andhra's Visakhapatnam. Administration start evaluation on surrounding villages. Casualty feared. #AndhraPradesh pic.twitter.com/Kh0SCoVIrl
— Heavy cavey (@CaveyHeavy) May 7, 2020
Probe under way
Bloomberg also reported that LG Chem Ltd, which owns the plant, has started an investigation into the cause of deaths and the scale of damage.
“The gas leakage is now under control, but the leaked gas can cause nausea and dizziness, so we’re doing our best to ensure the right treatment is provided swiftly,” it quoted LG Chem spokesperson Choi Sang-kyu as having said.
“The plant was shut down due to coronavirus worries when the accident took place. A night time dutier came to learn of gas leakage from a styrene monomer storage tank,” Sang-kyu added. “None of LG Chem’s employees there have died from this accident. A possible link between the gas leak and deaths of people is subject to further investigation.”
The Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) had earlier urged people to stay at home. It also said that those in colonies and villages near the area could move to safer locations.
There is gas leakage identified at LG Polymers in Gopalpatnam. Requesting Citizens around these locations not to come out of houses for the sake of safety precautions.
— Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) (@GVMC_OFFICIAL) May 7, 2020
“Because of the leakage of the said compound gas hundreds of people have inhaled it and either fell unconscious or having breathing issues,” GVMC Commissioner Srijana Gummalla tweeted.
Primary report is PVC gas (or Styrene) leaked from LG Polymers, Vepagunta near Gopalapatnam in Visakhapatnam at around 2:30 AM today
Because of the leakage of the said compound gas hundreds of people have inhaled it and either fell unconscious or having breathing issues. pic.twitter.com/WeCdrbddV1
— Srijana Gummalla (@GummallaSrijana) May 7, 2020
Mekapati Goutham Reddy, Minister of Industries, Commerce, IT & Skill Development, took to Twitter to say that the situation was being brought under control and that it might not be an LPG leak.
“We have instructed concerned authorities to take required measures on a war footing. Villages evacuation is underway. Request citizens not to panic and cooperate with authorities,” he tweeted.
Update on Gas Leak Accident in Vizag:
We are in touch with Vizag Dist Collectorate and management of LG polymers. Sources say, it is not an LPG leak, and situation is being brought under control. (1/2)
— Mekapati Goutham Reddy Official (@MekapatiGoutham) May 7, 2020
The LG polymers factory produces a type of plastic which is used to make a wide variety of consumer products like toys and appliances.