Image use for Representational only. image Courtesy: The Indian Express
The gas leakage in the wee hours of Thursday morning at Visakapatnam’s LG Polymers India Pvt Ltd has killed at least 11 persons and over 300 others including children are hospitalised. While the state government has announced an ex gratia package to the affected families and constituted a special committee to probe the incident, trade unions are demanding legal action against the company for negligence in their operation.
Initial reports suggest that Styrene gas leaked from the polymers plant located at Gopalapatnam, on the outskirts of Visakhapatnam. While there are five villages in the vicinity of the plant, residents of R R Venkatapuram were most affected due to the high-intensity gas leakage.
The intensity of the Styrene vapours was such that many residents of Venkatapuram fell unconscious while going to hospitals. Tens of cattle and other domesticated animals have also died or fell unconscious due to the inhalation of the gas.
Admitting that Styrene is a lethal chemical with carcinogenic (cancer causing) effect, State industries minister P Gautam Reddy said: “I was told it is in a liquid form stored in the storage tank of the plant for the last 45 days and at 20 degrees Celsius and above, it would convert into gaseous form. Apparently, the gas leaked out of the tank due to the opening of the lid. The technicians of the plant closed the lid within a short time but the damage was already done.”
The state Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, who visited the hospitalised patients, has announced an ex gratia package for the affected families. Addressing a press conference, Jagan questioned why the plant’s alarm didn't warn the nearby residents immediately after the gas leakage. He announced Rs 1 crore to each of the families of victims who died in the incident, Rs 10 lakh to each of the severely affected persons getting ventilator-based treatment, Rs 1 lakh each to those persons who will need hospital care for next two-three days and Rs 25,000 each to all those hospitalised for primary care. Furthermore, the CM promised Rs 10,000 each to over 1500 persons living in the villages surrounding the plant and also arrangement of medical camps there.
The CM also constituted a special committee with principal secretary, department of forest and environment and commissioner of police as its members to probe the incident.
Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) Andhra Pradesh committee demanded strict action against the administration of the plant accusing them of criminal negligence and irresponsibility. “While the poisonous gas began leaking at 2.30 AM in the morning, the plant’s officials didn't even alert the nearby residents, which led to deaths,” says M A Gafoor, state secretary, CITU. “In spite of similar incidents repeatedly taking place, the state government has not taken the problem seriously. Last year, severe accidents have occured in Srikakulam‘s Aurobindo factory, Tadipatri’s steel factory and when a boiler blasted in Bobbili. However, the state government has not taken any measures such as inspections at the factories,” Gafoor stated in a press statement.
Meanwhile, LG Polymers Manager Mohan Rao said that the gas leakage was caused due to storage problem caused by lockdown as plant was closed for over a month.’We could not maintain the refrigeration of chemicals in the storage tanks due to lockdown leading to leakage of styrene gas,” said Mohan Rao. The plant management has later stated that the leak was subsequently neutralised.
LG Polymers is a subsidiary of South Korea’s LG Group; it is part of the Chemicals and Petrochemicals Manufacturers Association, a lobby group of polystyrene and petrochemical product manufacturers.
Also read: 11 Dead, Over 200 Hospitalised After Massive Gas Leak from LG Polymers Plant in Vizag