Vizag gas tragedy: 11 dead, 240 under treatment, 20 on ventilators, govt asks people not to panic

Even as authorities have managed to neutralise gas and contain the impact of the leak, official death toll in Visakhapatnam went up to 11. The dead include an 8-year old girl and 2 senior citizens

Photo Courtesy: Instagram
Photo Courtesy: Instagram

NH Web Desk

A major leak from a polymer plant near Visakhapatnam impacted villages in a five-km radius, leaving nine 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.

Majority of the affected in the gas leak disaster in Vizag on Thursday that reminded everyone of the Bhopal tragedy, comprised of children. Close to 150 children are undergoing treatment and most of them are responding positively, doctors said.

The authorities have reportedly managed to neutralise the gas and contain the impact of the leak. The dead include an 8-year old girl and 2 senior citizens. Hospital authorities are looking for the parents of a young child who is in the hospital.

Speaking to the media, Andhra Pradesh DGP, Gautam Sawang said that of the 246 people currently receiving treatment, 20 are on ventilators. Reports from other hospitals are also indicating that the condition of the hospitalised persons is gradually improving.

Photo Courtesy: AFP/Twitter
Photo Courtesy: AFP/Twitter

The DGP said that water is one of the antidotes for styrene and so water has been sprayed in the air to neutralise the gas. "The entire Venkatapuram village has been cleared and around 700 people have been evacuated from there. Around 800 people were admitted to hospitals but most of them have been discharged. Around 240 people are still in hospitals."

Sawang said that forensic teams are looking into the incident to ascertain the cause.

Meanwhile, the survivors undergoing treatment at various hospitals in Visakhpatnam recounted their near-death encounter after the gas leak started around 2.30 a.m., while most of them were in deep slumber.

One of the women in KG Hospital said: "We could feel a strange smell. It was a very surreal feeling. Am I alive or dead. I could see people and animals lying on the ground. I don’t know how I reached the hospital."

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy held an emergency meetings with his top officials at Amaravati before leaving for Visakhapatnam for personally overseeing the rescue operations.

Photo Courtesy: Instagram
Photo Courtesy: Instagram

Tragedy struck Andhra Pradesh early on Thursday as gas leaked from a chemical unit in the city, leaving one minor among the dead, and close to 100 unconscious, with at least five sleeping hamlets affected were unaware of the leak as most were still in bed.

Initial casualties included a 8-year-old girl. One man is reported to have died when he jumped into a well while another person fell off the balcony of his house as the gas leak at the LG Polymers unit located at RR Venkatapuram near Gopalapatnam spread across the five sleeepy villaged around 2.30 a.m.

In scenes reminiscent of the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984, the streets and hospitals of Visakhapatnam were filled with people in panic, scared to breathe and unable to fathom the silent tragedy that struck them.

According to Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation officials, the tragedy took place when the chemical unit, closed due to the lockdown, was being restarted on Thursday morning. The gas stored in tanks began leaking and spread in a radius of 3 km. Officials have zeroed in on two gases, styrene and pentine, as the likely causes for the accident.

Vizag gas tragedy: 11 dead, 240 under treatment, 20 on ventilators, govt asks people not to panic

Early morning sights included people lying unconscious on the streets and dead cattle by the roadside. People, with children strung over their shoulders, ran in panic towards hospitals. Ambulances rushed to the area and transported 70 unconscious people to the King George hospital.

Eyewitnesses said that the incident took place around 2.30 a.m. when people were fast asleep in their homes. All of a sudden people in surrounding areas woke up with a sense of breathlessness, terrible itching, and burning sensation in their eyes. Panic-stricken they rushed out of their homes, only to collapse. Several cattle and livestock also succumbed to the poisonous gas pervading the air.

The impact of the tragedy was reduced to some extent as the plant operatives immediately alerted the authorities following which the district administration swung into action, an official said. The surrounding areas within a radius of 3 kms have been cleared of people and arrangements made for feeding around 7,500 people who have been asked to vacate their homes.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are keepinmg abreast of all details. Modi has started a meeting with NDMA officials to moniter the situation.

Officials said that the leak has been sealed and the gas dissipates fast and so the death toll may not increase substantially.

The Andhra Pradesh government appealed to people of Visakhapatnam not to panic and cooperate with authorities working to bring under control the situation following a gas leak from a chemical plant there.

In a series of tweets, IT and Industries Minister Mekapati Goutham Reddy said a helpdesk has been set up at the department of industries' general manager's office in Visakhapatnam.

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, he said.

"We have instructed authorities concerned to take required measures on war footing. Village evacuations are underway. Request citizens not to panic and cooperate with authorities," Reddy tweeted.

The villages around the LG polymers unit from where the gas leaked are being evacuated, he said.

The state government is in touch with the Visakhapatnam district collectorate and management of LG polymers, he said, and added, "sources say, it is not an LPG leak, and the situation is being brought under control.

The minister said a dedicated team will provide all assistance and also a team of the industries department is at the site, manning rescue operations.

"Request all, not to panic, and help us tide over this," Reddy appealed to people.

Photo Courtesy: Getty
Photo Courtesy: Getty

LG Polymers, is among India's leading manufacturer of polystyrene and expandable polystyrene. The plant located at Visakhapatnam, belongs to the Mumbai-based LG Polymers India, which is part of the South Korean group LG Chemical. Originally set up in 1961, as Hindustan Polymers for manufacturing polystyrene and its co-polymers, the company was merged with McDowell & Co Ltd of UB Group in 1978. It ultimately became part of the South Korean group LG Chemical, in 1997.

(With agency inputs)

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Published: 07 May 2020, 2:43 PM