A leak of styrene vapour from a chemical plant of LG Polymers India Private Ltd (LGPI), an arm of South Korea’s LG Chem, in Visakhapatnam on Thursday, claimed 11 lives and led to the hospitalisation of hundreds of people.
According to police, the neuro-toxic chemical leaked out from LGPI’s plant, located in RR Venkatapuram, at around 3 am and spread through the village in the next couple of hours. The police and personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (DMRF) and NDMA rushed to the spot. Four villages were evacuated as the vapour spread in a radius of 5 km. About 1,000 people were shifted to King George Hospital and other private hospitals in the port city.
While some were given primary treatment, about 358 have been hospitalised, per State government data.
It was like a nightmare for many who became unconscious after inhaling the gas while sleeping in their homes. Those who woke up ran out to reach hospitals even as some collapsed on the streets en-route. Rescue teams conducted a house-to-house search to provide relief.
Covid-19 ambulances and medical teams came in handy in the rescue operations.
According to AP Minister for Industries M Goutham Reddy, the plant was operating in self-monitoring and self-certification mode.
“LG Polymers is responsible for maintaining the plant, and the incident, it appears as of now, has happened during the process of re-starting... after the lockdown,” he said.
The South Korean MNC attributed the mishap to the non-functioning of the plant during the lockdown.
Terming the incident “unfortunate”, Mohan Rao, General Manager, LGPI, told newspersons: “The lockdown has become a curse for our industry. As the system was not running for the last 40 days, the chemical was stored in it, which otherwise would have gone to the reactor.’’
While the tank had a capacity of 2,400 tonnes, there was 1,800 tonnes in it at the time time of the mishap. None of the employees has been affected.
Probe into accident
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, who rushed to Visakhapatnam from Amaravati, ordered a probe by a panel headed by the State Chief Secretary.
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Reddy announced an ex-gratia of ₹1 crore each to the families of the deceased besides a compensation package to the affected people.