Eight persons, including a six-year-old girl, died and various others fell sick after a poisonous chemical gas leaked from a plastic manufacturing unit of Hindustan Polymers plant at RR Venkatapuram in Andhra Pradesh’s Gopalapatnam near Visakhapatnam, on Thursday.
According to a preliminary report, the incident occurred after styrene gas leaked at around 2:30 AM and reportedly spread over a radius of about 3 km, affecting at least five villages, including R.R. Venkatapuram, Padmapuram, B.C. Colony, and Kamparapalem. As per doctors, Styrene is a neuro-toxin and inhalation leads to immobilization and eventual death in ten minutes.
“The gas was leaked out from two 5,000 tonne tanks, which had been unattended since March due to the COVID-19 lockdown. It led to a chemical reaction and production of heat inside the tanks, which caused the leakage,” Visakhapatnam ACP (West Zone) informed the sources while citing that the plant was shut for past 40 days due to coronavirus lockdown with a minimum staff was deployed inside.
A poisonous chemical gas #Styrene leakage from a manufacturing unit of Hindustan Polymers plant at RR Venkatapuram in Visakhapatnam, killed at least 8 people and thousands of others fell sick after inhaling the gas.#VizagGasLeak #AndhraPradesh #LGPolymers #bnblegal pic.twitter.com/8dRY06sMjn
— B&B Associates LLP (@bnb_legal) May 7, 2020
The death toll was confirmed by the Principal of Andhra Medical College Prof. P.V. Sudhakar. Meanwhile, the municipal commissioner fears the death toll could rise as hundreds of people have inhaled the gas and either fell unconscious or are having breathing issues.
Commissioner of Police Rajeev Kumar Meena said that around 100 to 200 people have been shifted to King George Hospital in the city with breathing problems and vomiting.
Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation Commissioner Srijana Gummalla tweeted that the civic body is trying to “subside the effect [of the gas leak] by blowing water through most blowers” and public address systems have been asking people to use masks after soaking them in water.
DVSS Ramana, a resident of Naiduthota, said the smell of gas woke them up. “When we went outside, the whole air was filled with gas,” Ramana told the sources. “It entered our homes and caused breathing problems and burning sensation in the lungs. We are being evacuated. We are going to our relative’s place,” he added.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s office said that he has been monitoring the situation and instructed district authorities to “take every possible step” to save lives. He is also expected to visit the hospital to meet the victims, his office tweeted.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted “I pray for everyone’s safety and well-being in Visakhapatnam.”