New Delhi: In what could be one of the biggest industrial disasters in recent years, at least eleven people died and over 200 were hospitalised, including a large number of children, after a major gas leak in a private sector chemical plant in Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. The dead included a minor, as per reports.
The tragedy occurred after a styrene vapour leak from the polymer plant, and some 20-odd workers were present in the plant which was preparing to reopen after the 40-day lockdown. He leak impacted villages in about a 5 km radius
Reminiscent of the Bhopal Gas tragedy in 1984 that killed thousands of people, residents living in a village, RR Venkatapuram, the plant of the Indian arm of South Korean company, LG Polymers India Pvt Ltd, reported of burning sensation in the eyes and difficulty in breathing, as per officials quoted in a NDTV report. Ambulances, fire engines and policemen had reached the chemical plant, the officials said.
"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," the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation tweeted.
The civic body asked the local residents staying near the chemical plant in Gopalapatnam to stay indoors and use wet cloth as mask. There are around five hamlets in the vicinity of the chemical plant.
Corporation on Thursday asked people staying near the chemical plant where a gas leak took place in the wee hours to stay indoors and use a wet cloth to cover their nose and mouth.
Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy has asked district officials to take every possible step to save lives and bring the situation under control.
LG Polymers makes polystyrene and expandable polystyrene, a versatile plastic used to make a wide variety of products, such as toys and appliances, and was in operation since 1961, originally as Hindustan Polymers.
According to local reports, panic took over local residents who poured on to the streets and hospitals in Vizag , complaining of breathing difficulties.
An IANS report quoted officials of the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation officials, saying that the tragedy took place when the chemical unit, closed due to the lockdown, was being restarted in the wee hours of Thursday morning. “The gas stored in tanks began leaking and spread in a radius of 3 km. Officials have zeroed in on two gases, styrene and pentine, as the likely causes for the accident,” the report added.
The report described Bhopal Gas Tragedy-like heart-wrenching scenes in the morning sights, included people lying unconscious on the streets and dead cattle by the roadside. “People, with children strung over their shoulders, ran in panic towards hospitals. Ambulances rushed to the area and transported 70 unconscious people to the King George hospital,” IANS said.
Some eyewitnesses told the media that the incident took place around 2.30 a.m. when people were fast asleep. ‘All of a sudden people in surrounding areas woke up with a sense of breathlessness, terrible itching, and burning sensation in their eyes,” they said, adding that people ran out and started collapsing. Several cattle and livestock were also affected.
Meanwhile, in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called an emergency meeting of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), while
Modi took to Twitter saying that the situation was "being monitored closely." "I pray for everyone's safety and well-being in Visakhapatnam," he said.
In a tweet, Home Minister Amit Shah described the gas leak as "disturbing" and said the Central government was closely monitoring the situation.
Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy spoke to Andhra Pradesh's chief secretary and director general of police and took stock of the situation.
"I am continuously monitoring the situation. Hundreds of people have also been affected in the unprecedented and unfortunate event in Visakhapatnam, AP," Reddy said here.
Telugu Desam party (TDP) chief and former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu expressed shock over the gas leak incident in Visakhapatnam and urged residents of the city to take necessary precautions.
In a tweet, Naidu called upon party leaders and cadre to be readily available to help people in distress.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, too, expressed shock over gas leak incident and prayed for the speedy recovery of those hospitalised, urging Congress workers in the area to provide all necessary support to those affected.