While the world is still trying to cope up with the deadly coronavirus, a major industrial disaster strikes India in the state of Visakhapatnam. Styrene gas was leaked during the early hours of Thursday from the LG Polymers Plant in RR Venkatapuram village. The gas leak at Visakhapatnam was caused in the plastic factory due to a glitch in the refrigeration unit attached to two Styrene tanks. Styrene monomer is normally in a liquid state and is healthy below 20 degrees Celsius temperature. But the gasification of the chemical began in the factory and subsequently it evaporated due to the technical problems in the refrigeration unit.
Though the leak’s source was found in the morning itself, the results were seen several hours later. People were collapsing on the roads, pavements, and lying unconscious near the plant. A child and two men were among the dead who plunged into a borewell while escaping the plant’s poisonous vapors. Dozens of villagers, mostly children, experienced eye irritation, breathlessness, nausea, and rashes. As medical officers and emergency workers hurried to carry people to the hospital and save them, many were found gasping for air as they made their way to safety, blustered, and dazed. Some tried to move but in a faint, they dropped to the ground. Though Styrene is not a toxic gas, it can be fatal if inhaled in excess quantities
The death toll could increase as 20 people and critical and on ventilators. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Delhi National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) officials said 11 people have died and 1,000 have been exposed to the gas. And 246 people who were affected in the gas leak in Visakhapatnam with health conditions are being treated in King George Hospital. Around 500 people from 200-250 families in a radius of three kilometers were relocated to safer places. The gas leak had also left livestock and birds unconscious. NDRF Director-General SN Pradhan said factory leakage had been reduced to minimal, but NDRF workers will remain at the spot until it is completely plugged in.
The plant operations were closed due to lockdown but were supposed to be reopened again. So when the company staff was inspecting the machines to restart the operation of the factory, they noticed the leak and immediately called the state authorities. Minister of State Industries Mekapati Goutham Reddy said the households around the plant were being cleared, and a help desk was installed. The Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation provided precautionary measures on Twitter, asking people to wear a wet cloth or mask, eat banana and jaggery, and drink milk to neutralize the gas effects. Along with this Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind and vice-president Venkaiah Naidu have shared their condolences for the loss of lives and assured that the matter will be investigated properly.
The images from the scenes bought back the painful memories of Bhopal Gas Tradey back which had killed more than 3000 people and affected lakhs of people. Surely this disaster isn’t as catastrophic as that. The state government has asked people to not panic as they are doing everything they can to rescue people and relocate them in the safe zones.