A major toxic gas leak at the LG Polymers plant in Visakhapatnam in the early hours of Thursday killed at least ten people and caused illness to hundreds in about 20 villages in a five kilometre range around it.
The death toll could go up as the condition of several of those hospitalised was reported to be serious. Dozens of villagers were found lying unconscious on the streets and trapped in houses in the villages and colonies near the factory located at Venkatapuram village, police said.
Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy who rushed to the spot, said the state government will pay Rs 1 crore as compensation to families of each of the dead and that the amount would be recovered from the company.
Director General of Police Gowtham Sawang said, “Over eight hundred people were evacuated from villages surrounding the factory and two hundred were moved to various hospitals, of which more than two dozen are on ventilators.”
A representative of LG polymers said the leak took place when the company was preparing to commence operations from Thursday after more than 40 days of lockdown during which operations were suspended. The company mostly succeeded in controlling the gas leak by around 9am, he said.
Some ambulance staff, who were on the job of shifting affected people to hospitals, also fell ill, suffocated by the gas, which is believed to be synthetic chemical styrene.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called an emergency meeting of the NDMA and Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the situation was “disturbing” and that his ministry was continuously and closely monitoring it.
Television pictures showed dozens of cattle in the sheds and farms of these villages lying either dead or unconscious. An NDRF team swung into action to evacuate the people from the villages and colonies around the factory to safer locations.
Finding it suffocating to breath at around 3am , hundreds of people began to come out of homes in search of safer places, police said, adding that efforts were also on to break open several houses to bring out elderly and children who fell unconscious.
The Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation asked people staying near the chemical plant to stay indoors and use a wet cloth to cover their nose and mouth.
Local legislator Ganababu told journalists that many ambulances earlier deployed for coronavirus patients were diverted to shift the victims to hospitals and safer places.
YS Jagan Mohan Reddy left by chopper for Vizag to visit the affected area and a release from his office said, ” The Chief Minister is closely monitoring the situation and has instructed the district machinery to take immediate steps and provide all help. “
Industries minister Mekapati Gowtham Reddy said the government would take up thorough health screens on more than 8000 people in the region .
Opposition leader Chandrababu Naidu appealed to union commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal to arrange global medical experts to treat those affected by the styrene gas.