At least 11 persons are dead and hundreds sick after gas leaked from the LG Polymers 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.
Hundreds of unconscious people and those with breathing difficulties were brought to the King George Hospital in the city. Children and the elderly were most affected. An official at KGH said that the death toll is likely to go up. Read in Malayalam | Tamil | Bengali
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to the Andhra Pradesh government and the Centre over the incident. In a statement, NDRF DG S N Pradhan said over 1,000 people living close to factory have been exposed to the gas leak. He, however, maintained that the situation was now under control.
“Leakage from factory is now minimal, NDRF will be there till it is totally plugged,” Pradhan said.
The state government has said that 200-250 families living in nearby areas of factory have been evacuated. Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy announced Rs 1 crore compensation each to the kin of the dead besides offering Rs 20,000 each to the owners who have lost their animals. He also promised jobs to people who are victims of the gas leak and the kin of the family of dead.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the situation is being monitored closely and he spoke to the officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs and NDMA. “Spoke to officials of MHA and NDMA regarding the situation in Visakhapatnam, which is being monitored closely. I pray for everyone’s safety and well-being in Visakhapatnam,” PM Modi tweeted. Follow Vizag gas leak LIVE updates
Spoke to officials of MHA and NDMA regarding the situation in Visakhapatnam, which is being monitored closely.
I pray for everyone’s safety and well-being in Visakhapatnam.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 7, 2020
The prime minister has also called for a meeting with NDMA at 11 am to discuss the situation in the city. Following the meeting, the Centre decided to dispatch a special team of the NDRF from Pune. The Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) emergency team is specialised in handing chemical disasters and will be tasked with first plugging the breach in the LG Polymers plant.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Amit Shah and former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi also condoled the deaths of the people. “The incident in Vizag is disturbing. Have spoken to the NDMA officials and concerned authorities. We are continuously and closely monitoring the situation. I pray for the well-being of the people of Visakhapatnam,” Shah tweeted.
“I’m shocked to hear about the #VizagGasLeak . I urge our Congress workers & leaders in the area to provide all necessary support & assistance to those affected. My condolences to the families of those who have perished. I pray that those hospitalised make a speedy recovery,” tweeted Rahul Gandhi, urging Congress workers to provide all support.
Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy enquired about the gas leak incident and directed the district officials to take every possible step to save lives and bring the situation under control. He met the affected people at King George Hospital in the city. The Chief Minister is closely monitoring the situation.
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The police and fire and emergency services have started evacuating a 5-km radius area. Vizag Collector V Vinay Chand said: “The situation is being monitored with NDRF and SDRF officials at work. We are doing everything possible.”
Chand said that all the five villages have been evacuated. “The most serious cases have been shifted to King George Hospital. The situation was very serious till 6 am as the poisonous gas leaked till then. Now, it has eased a bit and we are able to go into the affected villages. A large number of animals including pet dogs, livestock, and birds have died. A team of veterinary doctors has reached the villages to assess the situation. In a couple of hours, the situation should improve,” he added.
Visakhapatnam Police Commissioner Rajiv Kumar Meena told The Indian Express that four persons died due to breathing the gas while two persons died of accidents while escaping.
“One person fell into a well while another fell from a two-storey building. Four persons died at hospitals due to complications from breathing the gas. The gas is not poisonous but prolonged exposure causes problems. Police and rescue officials have been able to go into the villages and evacuate once it was ascertained that the gas is non-poisonous. All the people admitted in hospitals are stable,” he said.
MoS Home G Kishan Reddy paid condolences to the people who died, and said that he was continuously monitoring the situation. “My condolences to the families of 5 people who passed away due to gas leak at a Pvt firm in Vizag, AP early hours today.Spoke to the CS& DGP of AP to take stock of the situation. Instructed NDRF teams to provide necessary relief measures. I’m continuously monitoring the situation,” he tweeted.
My condolences to the families of 5 people who passed away due to gas leak at a Pvt firm in Vizag, AP early hours today.Spoke to the CS& DGP of AP to take stock of the situation. Instructed NDRF teams to provide necessary relief measures. I’m continuously monitoring the situation
— G Kishan Reddy (@kishanreddybjp) May 7, 2020
Residents complained that the gas leakage, which reportedly started at around 2:30 am from the plant at RR Venkatapuram near Naiduthota area, caused burning sensation in the eyes, rashes on the bodies, and extreme difficulty in breathing.
“We woke up to the smell of gas. When we went outside, the whole air was filled with gas. It entered our homes and caused breathing problems and burning sensation in the lungs,” said DVSS Ramana, a resident of Naiduthota. “We are being evacuated. We are going to our relative’s place,” added Ramana, who has two children aged 8 and 12.
Industries Minister M Goutham Reddy said that the factory was to reopen today after the lockdown. “We have issued guidelines and protocol to all industries for safe reopening of factories. Our initial information is that workers were checking a gas storage tank when it started leaking. Only a thorough investigation will reveal what exactly happenned,” Reddy said.
Emergency services personnel who were evacuating people also fell unconscious because of the gas leak. Many children have been affected. A doctor at KGH said that children below age of 10 years were the most seriously affected. Officials said that they have not been able to contact anyone at the LG polymers unit.
Although police officials made announcements asking people to come out of their houses and leave the area, many people remained locked up in their homes. “Some people listened to us and came out and we took them to safety but many locked themselves in. we also do not know if some people fell unconscious inside their homes,” an official said.
The LG Polymers was established in 1961 as Hindustan Polymers for manufacturing polystyrene and its co-polymers in Vizag. It was merged with MCDowell &Co of the UB Group in 1978 and was taken over by South Korea-based LG Chem in 1997 which renamed it as LG Polymers. The factory manufactures general purpose polystyrene and high impact polystyrene, expandable polystyrene, and engineering plastics compounds.