Eleven people died and hundreds were hospitalised after the leak of styrene gas from a chemical plant in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam on Thursday.
Hours after the incident, the state police dismissed reports of a second leak as vapours were scene coming out of the plant.
“Maintenance team was repairing the system and some vapour was let out. There is NO second leak,” police said.
The Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation Commissioner (GVMC) has asked people to call 1800-4250-0009.
This is the helpdesk set up at Department of Industries GM office in Vizag:
S.Prasada Rao, DD: 7997952301, 8919239341
R. Brahma, IPO: 9701197069
Visakhapatnam Corporation Commissioner Srijana Gummalla said on Thursday morning that a primary report showed PVC gas (or styrene) had leaked from LG Polymers near Gopalapatnam in Visakhapatnam at around 2:30 am on Thursday.
“Because of the leakage of the said compound gas, hundreds of people have inhaled it and either fell unconscious or having breathing issues,” she tweeted.
Eleven people had died in the accident, Director General of National Disaster Response Force SN Pradhan said at a press briefing later in the day.
Police said one person died after falling into a well while running away and another person died after jumping from the second story of his house to escape.
The state’s industries minister Mekapati Goutham Reddy said rescuers broke open the doors of homes which were locked from the inside and found some people who had collapsed and transported them to a hospital.
The West Vizag ACP told HuffPost India that at least 70 people were in critical condition in different hospitals while DGP said that 20 people were on ventilators.
The National Human Rights Commission took suo motu cognisance of the incident, calling it a serious violation of human rights, and sent notices to the Central and Andhra Pradesh government.
Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy announced a compensation of Rs 1 crore to the next of kin of the deceased.
Nearly 1,000 people felt sick in an area of 3 kilometres around the plant, complaining of breathing difficulties and burning sensation in their eyes, Collector Vinay Chand told the Associated Press.
Chand said the gas leaked after a fire broke out at the plant where workers were preparing to restart the plant.
Commissioner Srijana Gummalla told Reuters that the plant had been reopened in the past few days after lockdown rules were relaxed to restart economic activity in certain areas.
Cross-referencing maps of the affected area showed there is at least one coronavirus containment zone in the neighbourhood, Reuters reported.
Impact of the leak
“Styrene is a common chemical used in the plastic industry. But if the quantities of consumption are very high and the proximity is intense, then it can be lethal,” SN Pradhan, DG, NDRF told NDTV.
“Locals reported throat and skin irritation and some toxic infection, then police and administration came into action. About 1000-1500 people have been evacuated, of which more than 800 people have been taken to hospital,” Pradhan said.
Visakhapatnam Police Commissioner RK Meena told ANI the village near the plant had been evacuated and the police conducted a door-to-door search.
Times of India reported that locals in the 3km-radius of the plant were seen lying unconscious on the roads.
“Some people are critical but most have been given first aid and are relatively fine, NDRF will stay on ground and an expert team will fly to Visakhapatnam. And situation is under control, the question is about rehabilitation now. We will be there till the leakage is totally plugged,” Director General Pradhan said.
GVMC released maps of the areas that were vulnerable because of the gas leak.
At 8 am, the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation had tweeted asking people in colonies and villages around the industry to leave for safer locations. People were instructed to use a wet cloth as a mask to cover their nose and mouth.
They had earlier been asked to stay in their houses for safety.
According to Express, the NDRF and the SRDF evacuated at least five districts.
LG Polymers was established in 1961 as Hindustan Polymers for manufacturing polystyrene and its co-polymers in Visakhapatnam. It was merged with McDowell and Company Limited of UB Group in 1978.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had spoken to home ministry and National Disaster Management Authority officials and the situation was being monitored closely.
(With inputs from Nikhila Henry)