A major leak from a polymer plant near Visakhapatnam impacted villages in a 5-km radius, leaving 11 people dead and scores of citizens suffering from breathlessness and other problems in an early morning mishap that raised fears of a serious industrial disaster.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took stock of the situation, and Union Home Minister Amit Shah expressed concern over the incident. Modi said in a tweet.
The dead included a child while scores of policemen who rushed to evacuate affected persons also were impacted by the leak of styrene vapour from the LG Polymers Limited plant at R R Venkatapuram village under Gopalapatnam limits near Visakhapatnam in the wee hours of Thursday.
Tragically, two of the victims met with their end after falling into a borewell while fleeing their affected village and their bodies were found later in the day. The daybreak saw some grim scenes as visibly suffering people were being rushed for medical assistance in autos and two-wheelers while government workers tried to assist them with whatever first aid possible.
People lying on the roadside and near ditches in the unconscious state narrated the magnitude of the situation, as the government said arresting the leak was the first priority.
Sources said the vapour leak occurred in the early hours of Thursday when some workers of the plant were making preparations for the re-opening of the unit following easing of the ongoing lockdown restrictions. State Industries Minister Mekapati Goutham Reddy said the LG Polymers unit was supposed to reopen post-lockdown on Thursday.
“We are trying to reach out to the top management of the (South Korean) company…our immediate priority is to arrest the leak and ensure proper medicare to the affected people,” he said.
While hundreds of villagers, most of them children, suffered the consequences of the vapour leak like irritation in eyes, breathlessness, nausea and rashes, over 100 people were admitted to government and private hospitals.
Visakhapatnam district Joint Collector Venugopal Reddy said people from R R Venkatapuram village have been fully evacuated and shifted to other places. Several police personnel, who came for the rescue operation, also suffered symptoms like breathlessness, irritation in eyes and fell unconscious. The 20-odd workers in the plant were well-versed with safety protocol and took appropriate steps and therefore did not suffer, sources said.
The styrene vapour spread to nearby villages and left the unsuspecting people suffering while fast asleep. Teams of National Disaster Response Force rushed to the spot and reports said the source of the gas leak was contained in the morning.
Meanwhile, Amit Shah termed the gas leak as disturbing.” Gas leak incident in Vizag is disturbing; we are continuously and closely monitoring situation,” he said.