Visakhapatnam Gas leaking claims 11 lives, 5000 fell sick- who is responsible?

In a shocking incident, eleven people have lost their lives in a gas leak tragedy that occurred in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. The Vizag gas leak incident took place at the LG Polymer plant at Gopalapatnam on the outskirts of Visakhapatnam in the wee hours of Thursday in which at least eleven people have died after they reportedly fell unconscious due to a gas leak. The gas reportedly started leaking around 2:30 am when the workers were preparing to reopen the plant today.

This incident is like adding fuel to the fire as India is already going through a bad patch due to coronavirus lockdown. Styrene gas from the LG Polymer plant has leaked and spread around three kilometers covering around 5 villages near Visakhapatnam. At least 800 people were reportedly admitted to the hospital. Ambulances, fire engines and policemen rushed to the chemical plant. Thousands of people were evacuated from nearby villages.

But a question comes to mind: How come this tragedy occurred in India when security standards have already improved to a great extent around the world. The disaster tragedy has most probably occurred owing to the negligence of LG Polymers factory. 

The LG Polymers factory was originally established in 1961 as Hindustan Polymers to manufacture polystyrene. It was merged with MCDowell and Co of the UP group in 1978 and was taken over by South Korea based LG Chem in 1997 which renamed it as LG Polymers.

Styrene is highly flammable and releases a poisonous gas when burnt. The gas can cause nausea and dizziness when inhaled, and experts say that people exposed to the gas should be given medical treatment immediately.

Who is responsible for this tragedy which has claimed more than 8 lives and several others were seriously affected. The Centre pressed a special team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) into service from Pune. CBRN team will also visit the place to ascertain the cause of leak gas. For the time being, an FIR has been registered against LG Polymers factory. Even international media is not left untouched by this shocking news amid lockdown. The disaster incident raises the question of who was responsible for the death of 11 people in the city.

All the unconscious people and those with breathing difficulties have been admitted to the King George Hospital in the city. An official at KGH said that the death toll is likely to go up.

The doctor said that children below the age of 10 years are in critical condition. Visakhapatnam Police Commissioner Rajiv Kumar Meena told The Indian Express that four persons died after breathing the gas while two persons died in accidents while escaping. The victims were immediately rushed to the King George Hospital in the city where they were declared dead by doctors.

Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has expressed deep grief over the demise of eleven people and announced Rs 1 crore compensation to the kin of the dead. The government will also offer jobs to people who are victims of the gas leak and the kin of the family of the dead. The 15,000-odd population in the five villages that were affected by the gas leak would be paid Rs 10,000 each, the chief minister added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took stock of the situation and assured all possible assistance to state Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy. The prime minister also chaired a meeting of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to assess the situation.

Writer, historian, and activist Dharam Sikarwar is a very active author The Youth. He writes on national and international issues, environment, politics. He is an avid book reader as well.