Tragedy struck Andhra Pradesh early on Thursday as gas leaked from a chemical unit in the city, leaving one minor among 8 people dead, over 1000 falling sick, with at least five sleeping hamlets affected unaware 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.
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 unconscious people to the King George hospital.
A large number of those hospitalised are children.
More than a 1,000 people in five surrounding villages, in a three km radius, have been reported sick.
Eyewitness said that many people were lying unconscious on the ground.
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.
The incident took place at a polymers unit located in the vicinity of the Naiduthota area near Gopalapatnam.
Police, ambulances, and fire tenders have been rushed to the area to assist in rescue operations.
Efforts were underway to plug the leak.
Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy enquired about the gas leak incident in Visakhapatnam and directed the district officials to take every possible step to save lives and bring the situation under control.
A statement from the CMO office said , "Due to a massive gas leak from LG Polymers plant in Venkatapuram created panic in the wee hours on Thursday, where many fell ill and being treated at King George Hospital."
The Chief Minister will leave for Vizag and visit the hospital where the affected were being treated.
He is closely monitoring the situation and instructed the district machinery to take immediate steps and provide all help, the statement said.
with agency inputs