VIZAG GAS LEAK: 11 DEAD AND OVER 350 HOSPITALIZED

vizag gas leak

What could go wrong now?

The year 2020 is showing us the worst that could happen. From the amazon bushfire to coronavirus, and now we have encountered another tragedy in May.

When people are struggling through the coronavirus lockdown, and no one knows what would happen ahead in the future as the number of cases is rising day by day, amidst this, the Andhra Pradesh state has gone through a major tragedy which has shaken the nation.

On Thursday morning, a hazardous styrene monomer gas leak occurred in a chemical plant situated in a densely populated area in Visakhapatnam, which resulted in the death of 11 people, including two children aged 6 and 9-year-old and hospitalization of over 350 people.

  • A chemical plant belonging to LG polymers, set up in 1961 at RR Venkatapuram in Visakhapatnam, when the place was considered to be on the outskirts of the city.
  • The gas leak from the plant began at around 2:30 am to 3 am on May 7.
  • The gas diffused over a radius of 3 to 5 km, affecting the below-mentioned villages.
    • RR Venkatapuram
    • Padmapuram
    • BC Colony
    • Gopalapatnam
    • Kamaparapalem

People were not able to understand what was happening, and some thought that there was a fire accident. But as the pungent smell spread, people rushed out of their homes carrying their family members. While escaping the gas, many accidents occurred, which caused death.

  • A 19-year-old medical student fell from the second floor of his house after the gas affected his vision.
  • Two people fell into well and died.
  • Two people who tried to escape the gas driving a two-wheeler died, as the vehicle fell into a drain.
  • Some people were declared dead when brought at the hospitals.
  • Several people fell unconscious on the roads while trying to escape the gas.
  • Many people were found unconscious inside homes.
  • Many animals, like cats, dogs, birds, etc. collapsed on the roads, and tree leaves were burnt.

The first team of police reached the spot at 4:20 am after getting an emergency call at around 4:00 am. The Andhra Pradesh government has evacuated nearly 10000 people living near the plant. More than 250 ambulances, fire engines, and several state transport buses were involved in the rescue operation. Many private hospitals were opened to meet emergency requirements.

According to sources, many people complained about burning sensations in the eyes and rashes on the body, breathlessness, severe headaches, and nausea. At least 800 people were rushed to the hospitals, and many have been discharged since then. But nearly 316 people are still hospitalized.

ABOUT THE PLANT

The plant from which the gas leak occurred belonged to LG Polymer, a subsidiary of LG chemicals and a part of the south Korea LG group. It took over Hindustan polymers in 1977.

The plant manufactures plastic compounds like polystyrene, Expandable polystyrene, and enhanced plastic compounds.

The leak happened after the management was preparing to start the operation on May 4, 2020. This step was taken following the relaxation of lockdown norms released by the government after the 40 days of lockdown.

STYRENE GAS

Styrene is a derivative of benzene. It is an oily and odorless liquid that evaporates and mixes with the air. The gas is used in the manufacture of plastics and resins.

Is styrene harmful?

According to IARC (International Agency for research on cancer), styrene is a possible cancer-causing agent

Symptoms and effects of styrene gas

  • Irritation of eyes and mucus membrane in mouth, nose, digestive tract
  • Tiredness
  • Sense of inebriation
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Concentration problems
  • Balance problems
  • Change in color vision

Long term exposure can also impact

  • Central nervous system
  • Reproductive system

Traces of styrene in day to day life

  • Traces can be found in water, air, and food.
  • According to WHO, smoking can raise the daily exposure to the gas by ten times.
  • People living near plastics and resin units inhale a few micrograms every day.
  • Styrene can be found in plastic bottles and other things we use in daily life.

The permissible level of styrene

  • 02 mg/liter in the permissible level of styrene in drinking water

NOW, WHAT?

  • Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has announced one crore compensation for the family members of the deceased, and this includes the compensation amount to be covered by the company.
  • The Gopalapatnam police have registered a case against the LG polymers under several sections of IPC.
    • 278 (causing a hazard to the atmosphere)
    • 284 (negligence in the management of hazardous substance)
    • 285 (negligence in conduct to fire or combustible matter)
    • 337 and 338 (endangering life or personal safety of people)
    • 304 (II)
  • Around 500 kg of chemicals were airlifted from Gujarat on Thursday morning to neutralize the impact of styrene. This step was taken after the authorities of LG polymers requested the government to arrange 4-tertiary butyl catechol (PTBC), which is available in a chemical factory in Gujarat to limit the reaction at an early stage.

As the poisonous gas styrene could have chronic effects apart from the immediate symptoms, the hazard is compared with the Bhopal gas disaster of 1984. The Vizag gas leak is a warning to the industries all over India. The government needs to take some strict measures so that the safety of industrial chemicals can be kept under strict watch.

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