At least 10 people died and hundreds of others were taken ill after styrene gas leaked from an LG Polymers plant near Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh on Thursday. Visuals of people dropping unconscious on the streets were shared on social media, recalling the horrors of 1984 Bhopal gas leak. The deadly gas leaked reportedly when the plant was being reopened and spread over a radius of about three kilometers.

Visakhapatnam gas leak
AN NDRF personnel carrying a man, who inhaled the gas, on his soldiers.Getty

Some reports suggested that several factory employees were also believed to be inside the plant when the incident took place. NDRF's special chemical accident team was deployed in the rescue operation. People from at least five affected villages have been evacuated. 

What caused the leak?

According to reports, the gas leak occurred in two 5,000 tonne tanks, which were left unattended since March 24, when the country went into a nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus. "This led to a polymer reaction, and the heat was produced inside the tanks, which caused leakage," a senior police official told the International Business Times, India.

The incident occurred when the plant of being reopened after the lockdown curbs were eased. State Industries Minister Mekapati Goutham Reddy told local media that it appeared negligence during the re-opening of the plant led to the leakage of styrene gas. 

Andhra Pradesh DGP Damodar Goutam Sawang said that an investigation will be carried out into the incident. Meanwhile, police sources have confirmed that an FIR has been registered by the district police in this regard.

LG Chemicals says investigating the exact cases of leak

LG Chemicals Ltd, the company that owned the plant said that it was investigating what caused the leak and exploring ways to provide speedy treatment to those who fall sick after inhaling the gas. "We are investigating the extent of damage and the exact cause of the leak and deaths," it added.

The LG Polymers plant makes versatile plastic polystyrene which is used in fiberglass, rubber, and latex. The plant was first set up in 1961 as Hindustan Polymer but was taken over by South Korea's LG Chemicals in 1997.