Visakhapatnam: At least 11 people, including a six-year-old, were killed and nearly 5,000 fell sick after a chemical gas leaked from a plastic manufacturing unit of LG Polymers in Andhra Pradesh's Gopalapatnam near Visakhapatnam in the early hours of Thursday.
The central government said a specialised CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and medical specialists are being rushed to Vishakhapatnam.
Preliminary reports said the incident occurred after styrene gas leaked from the unit around 2:30am.
The plant was shut for the past 40 days due to the coronavirus lockdown and minimum staff had been deployed inside. "The gas leaked from two 5,000-tonne tanks, which had been unattended from March due to the lockdown. It led to a chemical reaction and production of heat inside the tanks, which caused the leakage," said the Visakhapatnam Assistant Commissioner of Police (West Zone).
NDRF Director General SN Pradhan said the leakage is now minimal but his personnel will remain at the spot till it is totally plugged. As of now, 20-25 people are critical, he said.
National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) member Kamal Kishore said about 1,000 people living in nearby areas of the factory have been exposed to the gas leak.
Pradhan said 500 people belonging to 200-250 families living within a 3-km radius have been evacuated to safer places.
Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) personnel tried to subside the effects of the leaked gas by blowing water and people were being asked to wear masks after wetting them.
GVMC Commissioner Srujana told News18 that 180 people were shifted to King George Hospital (KGH) and Apollo hospitals, while three are on ventilator. "As many as 1,500 households have been evacuated in Venkatapuram village," she added.
The most affected village is Venkatapuram, which is within a 1.5-km radius of the unit. More than 110 people have been shifted from there. Five villages have been totally evacuated, and the rest are in progress, said officials.
Some people said that the colour of the trees had also changed due to the intensity of the gas.
Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 1 crore for the families of those who died.
Andhra Pradesh Industries Minister Mekapati Goutham Reddy said the government has set up a helpdesk in Vizag and that affected people can get in touch on 7997952301, 8919239341 and 9701197069.