11 persons, including one child, have died after chemical gas leakage of styrene gas at LG Polymers industry in Visakhapatnam this morning.
1,000 people were reported sick after the gas spread in five villages within a three-km radius of the plant at around 3.30am.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was 'closely monitoring' the situation in Visakhapatnam and had spoken to officials in the Union home ministry and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). PM Modi also called for a meeting of the NDMA at 11 am today to take stock of the situation. 27 persons are involved in the relief and rescue operation being conducted by NDRF
What is styrene gas?
Styrene is a flammable liquid that is used to make polystyrene plastics, fiberglass, synthetic rubber, resins and latex. It occurs naturally in some fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, and beverages. Styrene is used to make: Insulation.
Styrene, is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5CH=CH2.
This derivative of benzene is a colorless oily liquid although aged samples can appear yellowish. The compound evaporates easily and has a sweet smell, although high concentrations have a less pleasant odor.
Exposure to styrene, can affect the central nervous system (CNS), causing headache, fatigue, weakness, and depression.
What is impact of the the leak?
Chronic exposure to styrene in humans can affect the central nervous system (CNS), causing headache, fatigue, weakness, depression and CNS dysfunction, hearing loss, and peripheral neuropathy.
People woke up in horror with breathlessness and a burning sensation in their eyes as the emission spread to the adjoining villages. Some fell unconscious while fleeing
King George Hospital’s G Arjuna said a high concentration of gas near the leakage point and a longer period of inhalation by people when they were asleep made them sick.
Where did the gas leak take place?
The gas leak happened at the LG Polymer plant at Gopalapatnam on the outskirts of Visakhapatnam. Workers were preparing for the reopening of the plant today when gas started leaking in the early hours.
How many people were evacuated
As many as 3,000 people were evacuated to safe places and at least 250 were admitted to various hospitals, according to initial reports. Those in critical condition were put on oxygen support.
Vizag collector Vinay Chand said the administration rushed ambulances and other vehicles to evacuate people soon after receiving the information at around 4 am. Efforts were still on to contain the leakage completely.
About the plant
Established in 1969, the LG Polymers manufacturing plant produces hypol and EPS polymers, polystyrene, expandable polystyrene and other styrene polymers, according to the company’s website. These are widely used for electrical and electronics packaging, cold storage, boxes for agricultural and fishery products. It also manufactures engineering plastic which is lighter yet stronger than general plastics. Thus, it is used as an industrial raw material for automobiles and electronic parts. The Indian subsidiary of South Korea's LG Chem had taken it over 15 years ago.
What could have been cause of the leak?
The plant had been shut for 40 days due to the nationwide lockdown in force to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The leakage is believed to have taken place when the plant’s employees were preparing to reopen it following some recent relaxations announced by the government. Only a thorough investigation will reveal what exactly happened
An official of LG Polymers issued a statement that there was 1800 tonnes of styrene in the storage tank. He said that due to stagnation and changes in temperature it could have resulted in auto polymerization which could have caused vapourisation.
LG Chem, the owner of LG Polymers, said in a statement that the gas emitted in the leak can cause nausea and dizziness when inhaled. It said it was seeking to ensure casualties received treatment quickly.
The Vizag accident brought back memories of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.
Women and children were seen lying on roads struggling to breath, reminiscent of the infamous Bhopal gas tragedy when a leak from the Union Carbide plant left around 3,500 dead and many maimed.
What is the current situation?
Right now gas has been neutralised. One of the antidote is drinking a lot of water. Around 800 were shifted to hospital, many have been discharged. Investigation will be carried out to see how this happened: Andhra Pradesh DGP Damodar Goutam Sawang
The Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation has asked people staying near the chemical plant where a gas leak took place in the wee hours to stay indoors and use a wet cloth to cover their nose and mouth.
Andhra Pradesh government provides helpline numbers
People can get in touch with deputy director S Prasada Rao on his mobile numbers 7997952301 and 891923934, and another officer R Brahma on 9701197069: IT and industries minister Mekapati Goutham Reddy