The central government has dismissed reports of another incident at a chemical plant in Andhra Pradesh’s Vishakhapatnam last evening hours after an overnight gas leak at the plant killed 11 and left nearly 1,000 sick. “Minuscule technical leak was required to bring container in control,” the government said this morning.
“There are media reports that there was another leak. It’s is clarified that this was a minuscule technical leak. It’s required to bring the container in control. It’s been controlled and neutralisation process is already on,” the Union Home Ministry said in a statement.
“Teams from NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) and NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute) are on ground to support the local administration,” the statement added.
On Thursday, toxic styrene gas escaped from an LG Polymers facility in Vishakhapatnam that had been shut for over 40 days due to the nationwide coronavirus lockdown. At least three surrounding villages were evacuated and officials went house-to-house, breaking in to pull out unconscious victims.
Around midnight, there were reports of another gas leak at the same plant, but were dismissed by Andhra Pradesh’s Director General of Police Gautam Savang. “No gas leak again. Just evacuation as a precautionary measure,” he told NDTV.
About 5,000 kg of chemical was airlifted from Gujarat yesterday to neutralise the toxic gas leak in the industrial port city. The evacuation and neutralisation process began late last night amid panic among locals.
“Bigger perimeter area was evacuated to carry out operation last night which led to panic about another gas leak,” said an official.
The chemical plant makes polystyrene, a versatile plastic used in fiberglass, rubber and latex and for making toys and appliances among other things. Set up in 1961 as Hindustan Polymers, the company was taken over by South Korea’s LG Chem and renamed LG Polymers India in 1997.
A failed valve is suspected to have caused the leak. Investigators believe after 40 days of lockdown, gas pressure may have built up. Styrene has to be maintained at less than 20 degrees, but refrigerants may have failed, causing pipes to burst.
The incident has been compared by many to the 1984 Bhopal Gas leak, one of the worst industrial disasters in history when gas leaked from a pesticide plant operated by Union Carbide.