13 killed in a gas leak in Vishakhapatnam, 5,000 affected  

Vishakhapatnam: – A major mishap took place due to the leakage of Styrene gas in a factory at Vishakhapatnam, in Andhra Pradesh. Thirteen people have died in the accident. The gas spread to an area of nearly 3 kilometres radius from the factory, and more than 5,000 people were affected because of inhaling the poisonous gas. The government has decided to check almost 8,000 people of the area. Memories of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, in 1984, were refreshed with this incident and rescue operation to move the people from the nearby villages to a safe place has been undertaken.  

The gas leak started in the Vishakha LG Polymers, a Korean company manufacturing Polystyrene, located in Vishakhapatnam, between 2.30 and 3.00 in the morning. Within minutes, the gas spread in an area up to 3 kilometres radius from the factory. Citizens were experiencing difficulty in breathing. They also had vertigo, started vomiting and collapsed. People rushing out of the house and trying to run to safety were found unconscious on the roads. This can explain the seriousness of the situation.  

This company making Polystyrene, a special type of plastic, was closed because of the lockdown since the last 40 days. The accident took place during the preparations to restart the factory after the relaxation of the lockdown by the government. Styrene gas is considered to be a potent poison. This combines with the oxygen in the air resulting in an increase in carbon monoxide component in the air, which when inhaled by a person adversely affects the lungs, and the person experiences difficulty in breathing. As per the received information, the person coming in contact with the gas can die in just 10 minutes.  

So far, 13 people have reportedly died in the incident in Vishakhapatnam, and 80 people are critical. 350 are undergoing treatment in hospitals. Other than these, 5,000 people have been affected by the gas leak. Everyone within 5 kilometres radius of the factory will be checked. The special unit of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), constituted for rescue operations in the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear disasters, has reached Vishakhapatnam. The state government has announced an aid of 10 million to the next of kin of the victims. An offence has been registered against the company, and an inquiry has been ordered into the incident. The preliminary investigation revealed that a technical fault in the refrigeration units connected to the Styrene tanks caused the leak.   

Luckily, the factory of Vishakha LG Polymer is in the outskirts of Vishakhapatnam, and therefore, the residents of the city were saved from the effects of the gas leak. Otherwise, the magnitude of the losses would have been enormous. The company succeeded in sealing the leak by 9 a.m.  

This incident has refreshed the memories of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, which occurred 35 years ago. In that incident, thousands of people had died in their sleep after there was a leak of poisonous gas from the plant of the Union Carbide Company. Five thousand people had died in the accident, whereas more than 600,000 people suffered the effects of the gas leak for a long time. 

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