Gas leak at chemical plant in Visakhapatnam: 6 dead, many unconscious

According to the police at the spot, at least 500 people have been moved to hospitals.
Vizag gas leak
Vizag gas leak
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Hundreds of people have fallen unconscious following a gas leak at a chemical plant, which occurred overnight, in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam. The gas leak at the LG Polymers chemical plant in RR Venkatapuram started around 2 am on Thursday and spread to the neighbouring areas, for upto 4 kms from the plant, according to the police.

Gopalapatnam Sub-Inspector Venkat Rao told TNM that three people have died from the leak so far, and at least 500 people have been moved to hospitals and three villages have been evacuated. Of those admitted in hospitals, 82 have been admitted to KGH hospital.

Reports say that people exposed to the gas are having a burning sensation in the eyes. “People have passed out after inhaling the gas. Even our (police personnel) eyes are still burning and we feel nauseous,” SI Venkat Rao said.

Most people are being taken to King George Hospital, while some are being moved to private hospitals if needed, he said. 

The Director General of Police of Andhra Pradesh, Guatam Sawang told TNM that there have been 6 gas-leak related deaths out of which two are children and four are adults. Two of these were accident-related deaths, where one man fell into a well while trying to run away and one person fell from the second floor of the house.

He claimed that the gas itself is not lethal or poisonous, therefore people who have been taken to the hospital will be given treatment and most of them can be discharged.

As per company protocol, LG Polymers had a gas chamber and a neutraliser chamber next to it so they immediately tried to neutralise the gas. He does not expect casualties to rise much further. Investigation has been started into what primarily seems to have been a maintenance issue.

In a tweet, Srijana Gummalla, Commissioner of Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC), said, "Primary report is PVC gas (or Styrene) leaked from LG Polymers, Vepagunta near Gopalapatnam in Visakhapatnam at around 2:30 am today (Thursday). Because of the leakage of the said compound gas, hundreds of people have inhaled it and either fell unconscious or having breathing issues."

A former LG polymer employee and workers’ union secretary, who is also a resident, told TV9 that the incident is likely to have occurred as the unit may have been restarted after the lockdown, without adequate maintenance work first. “The leak is likely to have been caused because of not doing proper maintenance before starting production after a while. In their eagerness to start the plant again, they may not have done that,” he said, alleging that for the past few days, maintenance work was being carried out by unskilled workers. 

The former employee and several locals suggested that styrene (a colourless liquid) could be one of the chemicals that may have caused an explosion and the leak. 

He also said that people who were sleeping outdoors had escaped, while those who were inside the factory had fallen unconscious and had to be rescued by the police and NDRF personnel by breaking in. 

(This is a developing story)

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