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Vizag gas leak: ‘People walked out and just collapsed … women and children were crying’

Of the five villages near Visakhapatnam evacuated due to gas leak from the LG Polymers factory on Thursday, Venkaiah’s Venkatapuram was the worst-affected.

Written by Sreenivas Janyala | Hyderabad |
Updated: May 8, 2020 2:07:31 am
Vizag gas leak, vishakpatnam gas leak, vishakapatnam chemical gas leak, lg polymers, lg polymers gas leakage, visakhapatnam lg polymers, visakhapatnam lg polymers gas leak, lg polymers visakhapatnam gas leak Victims of the Visakhapatnam gas leak at a hospital. (PTI)

“Several people lay on the road, catching their throats or rubbing their eyes. One person fell from the motorcycle he was sitting on. My wife and I gasped, unable to breathe.”

Tadhi Venkaiah, 60, described a Thursday early morning of “horror” as police came knocking on their doors to tell them gas had leaked from a nearby plant and they should leave. “The sound of the banging on the door woke me. I thought something had happened to my cow and a neighbour had come, but someone shouted ‘police’. I was really scared. They said there was a gas leak and my wife and I should go with them. I was groggy and I had difficulty waking up my wife, so policemen picked us up and put us in a vehicle. They calmed us down and brought us to hospital.”

Of the five villages near Visakhapatnam evacuated due to gas leak from the LG Polymers factory on Thursday, Venkaiah’s Venkatapuram was the worst-affected.

Among the dead were two children, 6 and 9 years old, 73-year old Meka Krishna, who had respiratory problems, C G Raju (48), A Narasimha (55), K Naryana (35) and A Chandramouli, 19. A first-year MBBS student of Andhra Medical College, Chandramouli was at his house in Gopalapatnam village, which fell in the gas leak radius. His father, A Easwara Rao, said Chandramouli struggled to breathe and died on way to hospital.

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Kanta Rao from Venkatapuram village, who studies at Andhra University, said the scene was like out of a zombie movie. “People walked out of homes and just collapsed on the road. They gasped for air and frothed at the mouths. Cows and buffaloes moaned. Women and children were crying. Policemen who came to the rescue also collapsed. A few persons who owned autorickshaws or fourwheelers rushed people to hospitals before the ambulances started arriving,” Rao said, adding that chaos prevailed for hours as families tried to track each other.

Sagar, a local registered medical practitioner, said, “There was a foul smell in the house and I could not understand what was happening. I first thought gas was leaking from the LPG cylinder in our kitchen. Then I opened the doors and there was this strong, pungent smell. By that time both my children had started crying and were struggling to breathe. One became unconscious and the other was barely breathing by the time we reached hospital. They are both fine now.”

Doctors said that many of the victims ended up inhaling more gas as they ran in panic.


Vizag gas leak: What is styrene gas? A father rushes to take his child for treatment at King George Hospital. (PTI Photo)

Dr M Vijay of General Medicine at King George Hospital said people were brought in a state of total shock. “The inhalation of gas had made them semi-conscious, delirious. It had affected their central nervous system. They were unable to walk. The first half-an-hour in the hospital emergency room was chaos as it took us time to understand the scale of what had happened,” said Dr Vijay, adding that they called in all their doctors and nursing staff. “Thankfully we were prepared with oxygen and ventilators as KGH had been made a Covid-19 hospital. The ventilators helped save numerous lives, especially those of children.”

Police said some of the scared villagers may have run into the hills around a local temple, and they were scouring the area.

Bobby, an autorickshaw driver who helped take three persons to King George Hospital, said they had no clue initially which direction to head as they didn’t know where the gas was coming from. “We met an ambulance and the driver directed us to nearby hospitals,” he said.


Several villagers and officials praised police for reacting swiftly, especially Depsuty Commissioner of Police B Uday Bhaskar, after receiving the alert around 3 am. Autorickshaw drivers like Bobby also came in for praise for risking their lives to take people out.

“Within two-and-a-half hours, about 5,000 people were evacuated from five villages, thanks to police and fire and emergency services. The seven-seater auto drivers are the real heroes,” said Visakhapatnam MP M V V Satyanarayana. Banquet halls in the area opened their doors to accommodate the evacuees. Officials said they had offered to host the villagers till they could back home. People are also being kept in the accommodations created for Covid-19 quarantine.

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First published on: 08-05-2020 at 02:07:01 am
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