October 22, 2021

The Queens County Citizen

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A gas leak at an Indian chemical plant left at least five people dead and 150 hospitalized

Smokes rise from an LG Polymers plant following a gas leak incident in Visakhapatnam, India, on May 7.

The LG Polymers factory is located in the city of Vishakapatnam, in the state of Andhra Pradesh in southern India. The gas leak at the plant took place early on Thursday morning local time, said city Police Commissioner Rajiv Kumar Meena.

The leak occurred near the home of a village for 3,000 to 4,000 residents, which were alerted by police through a loud speaker announcement, Meena said. Photographs from the city show hospital staff paying attention to some children and toddlers lying in bed, and cows lying unconscious on a dirt road near the affected area.

“When we arrived at the place many people lay on the ground unconscious and we evacuated about 1,000 people and took them to the hospital. Of that number, around 100 people were seriously ill,” said Tej Bharath, Vizag Revenue Division Officer.

It was not immediately clear what caused the leak. The plant was recently reopened after restrictions on the coronavirus lockdown subsided, with a gas leak occurring during the process of restarting operations, according to Bharath. The gas has been identified as Styrene, a flammable liquid that is used to make various industrial products, including polystyrene, fiberglass, rubber, and latex.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet that he had spoken with officials about the leak, and was monitoring the situation.

“I pray for the safety and welfare of everyone in Vizag,” he tweeted.

The state’s chief minister will also visit the city hospital where residents are treated, his office confirmed in a tweet.

“The Chief Minister is closely monitoring the situation and has directed district officials to take every step possible to save lives and control the situation,” the tweet said.

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Local authorities and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are in the field responding to leaks. Evacuation operations are almost complete, according to senior NDRF officials.

Photo tweeted by Satya Pradhan, director general of the NDRF, showed team members wearing hazmat suits and gas masks helping residents to safety. Some had to physically carry the affected population on their shoulders, run for medical treatment.

The city’s citizenship authority, Greater Vishakapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC), warned residents to stay indoors during response efforts.

“There was a gas leak identified at LG Polymer in Gopalpatnam. Asking residents around this location not to leave the house for safety precautions,” tweeted GVMC. “As a precaution, colonies and villages around the industry can go to safer locations. Please use a wet cloth as a mask to cover the nose and mouth.”