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Published On: Thu, May 7th, 2020

VIZAG :Technical glitch in refrigeration unit caused leak; 11 dead, over 25 are critical

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VizagVIZAG(AP): At least 11 people were killed and 25 are critical .300-400 were rushed to hospital from villages in the vicinity of LG Polymers plant after Styrenegas from the plant leaked to surrounding areas on Thursday morning.
Toxic styrene gas escaped from an LG Polymers facility that had been shut for over 40 days due to the nationwide coronavirus lockdown. At daybreak, people were found lying motionless in lanes, ditches and near houses.At least hundred people, many in masks for COVID-19 precaution, were seen lifting the injured and bundling them into waiting ambulances.
The gas leak, that quickly spread to villages in a five-kilometre radius, occurred at around 2.30 am from the multinational LG Polymers Plant at RR Venkatapuram village. Hours later, scores of people were seen lying unconscious, raising fears of a major industrial disaster.
Two people were so dizzy that they fell into a well and died. Two more died when their two-wheeler fell into a ditch. One woman fell off the second floor of her building. In one mobile video, a woman standing near a scooter suddenly collapsed on the pavement.

Residents near the plant reported burning eyes and skin and difficulty breathing, officials said. Prolonged exposure to styrene can affect the nerves and even cause kidney damage.
According to police, the death toll from the accident could go up as at least 20-25 people are currently on ventilator support. Meanwhile, Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy has announced Rs 1 crore each as relief to kin of people killed in the tragedy. Jagan, who visited the King George Hospital here, said that the government will also provide cash assistance to the injured.
In Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired an emergency meet to review the situation and spoke to CM Jagan. Director General of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) SN Pradhan said that leakage from the factory is now minimal but the NDRF personnel will be at the spot till it is totally plugged. He said 500 people belonging to 200-250 families living in the 3-km radius have been evacuated to safer places.
Meanwhile, LG Chem, the owner of LG Polymers, on Thursday, said that the gas leak in Visakhapatnam has been brought under control and the extent of damage is being assessed. In a statement, the South Korean company said that necessary measures are being taken to ensure the protection of residents and employees in villages around the plant
“We are currently assessing the extent of the damage on residents in the town and are taking all necessary measures to protect residents and employees in collaboration with related organizations,” LG Chem said. Efforts were underway to ensure that those affected received treatment immediately.
Meanwhile, even as rescue operations were underway, there were rumours of a second gas leak in the area. AP Police, however, refuted the claims and said that the reports of a second leak were ‘false’. “The maintenance team of the plant was repairing the system and some vapour was let out. There is NO second leak (sic),” AP Police said in a tweet.
Police officer Swaroop Rani in Visakhapatnam was quoted by saying the gas leaked out of two 5,000-tonne tanks that had been unattended due to the lockdown. “It was left there because of the lockdown. It led to a chemical reaction and heat was produced inside the tanks, and the gas leaked because of that,” the officer told AFP.
The plant makes polystyrene, a versatile plastic used in fiberglass, rubber and latex and for making toys and appliances among other things. Set up in 1961 as Hindustan Polymers, the company was taken over by South Korea’s LG Chem and renamed LG Polymers India in 1997.
The incident has been compared by many to the 1984 Bhopal Gas leak, one of the worst industrial disasters in history when gas leaked from a pesticide plant operated by Union Carbide. Around 3,500 people died. Government statistics say at least one lakh people continue to suffer chronic illnesses.
(With Agency Inputs ),

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