Ten people, including two children, have died while about 300 are hospitalized after gas leakage from LG Polymers chemical plant in RR Venkatapuram village, Visakhapatnam, in Andhra Pradesh today. The Vizag factory was trying to open post lockdown when the incident occurred, DG NDRF told CNN-News18. Several people were taken to the hospital after they complained of a burning sensation in their eyes and breathing difficulties.
Footages of the incident show people lying on Vizag’s roads near the site, possibly unconscious. Many are being carried into ambulances, and people rushing in to help. An industrial siren sounds in the background, amid a heartbreaking scene of a child trying to wake up a woman lying unconscious on the divider.
The leak occurred when the plant was being re-opened for the first time since 24 March when India went into lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The state Industries Minister Goutam Reddy told BBC Telugu that it looked as though proper procedures and guidelines were not followed when the plant was being re-opened.
Swaroop Rani, a senior police official in Visakhapatnam, told AFP that the plant had been left idle because of the lockdown.
“[The gas] was left there because of the lockdown. It led to a chemical reaction and heat was produced inside the tanks, and the gas leaked because of that.”
Local villagers complained around 03:30 and police immediately went to the scene but had to quickly retreat for fear of being poisoned, the news agency quoted her as saying.
“One could feel the gas in the air and it was not possible for any of us to stay there for more than a few minutes,” she said.
As the gas spread, residents ran out of their homes in panic. Distressing images of people fainting and dropping unconscious on the streets are being shared on social media.
What is Styrene and how can exposure affect humans?
- Styrene gas is a colorless, or light yellow, flammable liquid primarily used in the production of polystyrene plastics and resins – it is used in the manufacture of containers for foodstuffs, packaging, synthetic marble, flooring, disposable tableware, and molded furniture
- Breathing air contaminated with styrene vapors can cause irritation of the nose and throat, coughing and wheezing, and create a build-up of fluid in the lungs
- Exposure to larger amounts can result in the onset of “styrene sickness”, the signs and symptoms of which include headache, nausea, vomiting, weakness, tiredness, dizziness, confusion and clumsy or unsteady motion (known collectively as central nervous system depression)
- In some cases, exposure to styrene can also result in irregular heartbeats and even coma
- Several epidemiologic studies suggest there may be an association between styrene exposure and an increased risk of leukemia and lymphoma though the evidence is inconclusive.
“I thought I would die. I don’t know how I survived.” This was how a gas leak survivor in Visakhapatnam shared her experience.
“Nobody knew what was happening and all were running to save themselves,” said the woman undergoing treatment at King George Hospital (KGH), where most of the gas victims were brought for treatment.
She said she and her children woke up as they felt difficulty in breathing. “There was utter confusion. We saw people running and we too rushed out,” said the woman, who got separated from her two children in the melee.
They all fell unconscious and later found themselves in hospitals. “I can’t even speak properly. The children are recovering,” she said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Union home ministry and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to take stock of the situation in Vizag.
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