'Bleeding from nose, unconscious': CCTV visuals capture the horror of Vizag gas leak

The styrene gas leak at the LG Polymers plant in Andhra Pradesh left 12 dead and hundreds hospitalised.
Visakhapatnam Gas Leak
Visakhapatnam Gas Leak
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Two young children, a boy and a girl, are seen lying semi-unconscious on the road. The four-year-old boy is desperately attempting to stand up, but fails, wobbling back and forth until he eventually collapses. In another video, a woman is seen stuck inside a car. Having walked into the car barely conscious, she appears to have collapsed inside. A man rushes her to rescue, breaking the window open. Stumbling out of the car, the visibly weak mother then attempts to lift her son and take him to safety.

These are the harrowing scenes from that fateful morning on May 7 when toxic styrene fumes from the LG Polymers plant in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam left 12 dead and hundreds with neurological effects. The gas leak prompted authorities to evacuate five villages in the vicinity. Many survivors of the deadly gas leak from the South Korean company are recovering at the King George Hospital while some are slowly returning home.

Over a week after the leak, residents are now attempting to piece together the events of that day with the help of the CCTV footage from various houses in the area.

Footage from the homes of residents shows the events that transpired between around 4 am and 5 am. The disturbing visuals show children losing consciousness, unable to get-up despite trying hard. People helping out the unconscious can also be seen.

Speaking to The News Minute, Satyamani, the woman seen in the aforementioned video along with her child, says that it was a nightmare.

“That night we were sleeping with our windows open as our AC was off. I started sensing some strange smell and got out of the room and I enquired with my other family members. They could also sense the smell and the dose started increasing,” narrates Satyamani.

“We thought the Municipality was spraying something as a precaution for coronavirus. Later on, we called one of our other relatives in the locality. We were told that there is gas leakage from the LG Polymers industry and we were asked to vacate as soon as possible. Soon, I tied a face mask on my children and tried moving out,” she says.

When Satyamani opened the door to step outside, the smell was so intense, she recalls, that their eyes were burning. The young mother says, “Soon, my brother-in-law was out and was starting his car to move us out.”

Recounting the rush to escape the fumes, she says, “I quickly switched on the light and came out with my son, aged four, and daughter, aged two.  By then, my childrens’ eyes were burning and my son started bleeding from his nose. I was losing my consciousness. I asked my son to run and escape to his uncle as soon as possible. However, both my kids became unconscious and fell in front of the gate.”

“Later, my brother-in-law came and took my daughter. I tried lifting my son, but we both fell down and it was a total blank afterwards. I regained consciousness only in an ambulance that took us to KGH hospital, said Y Satyamani, recollecting the incident.

Satyamani's family is still recovering from the incident and has not yet shifted to their home. They are currently living with relatives. They visited their home only to clean it.

“My children are shouting in their sleep and are experiencing nightmares ever since we returned home after the gas leak. Our area has become lifeless. It is almost like a desert, all plants and even huge mango trees have died. That was the kind of impact that the styrene gas created,” she said.

Srinivas, another resident from the neighbourhood says that the effect of the gas leak is still in the air. “There are people who are still losing consciousness after returning home due to suffocation and are suffering from headaches as well,” he asserts.

He also reports that his children are experiencing nightmares about the incident and are suddenly shouting in their sleep.

“The Municipality needs to take extra measures. They have done all the sprayings in the first two days but the same has been reduced eventually. They need to take proper measures to make this locality suitable for living,” urges Srinivas.

The recovering residents are also fearful of the long-term impact of the gas leak on their health. They demanded that they be given medical tests to flag risks as well as heath cards for future medical emergencies.

The Visakhapatanam police has filed a case against LG Polymers under Sections 278 (Making atmosphere noxious to health), 284 (Negligent conduct with respect to poisonous substance), 285 (Negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter), 337 (Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 338 (Causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 304 (II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The state government has also formed a committee to look into the incident and submit a report uggesting action to be taken against the company.

A prelliminary enquriy by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in New Delhi noted that the styrene gas was not being stored at the appropriate temperature and added that the container used to store the gas was old and not properly maintained.

This non-maintenance of the facility resulted in the leakage of 3 tonnes of styrene into the surrounding areas,” the CSE had said in a statement earlier this month.  


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