As people within the 5km radius of the LG Polymers plant in Visakhapatnam were evacuated, speculation over a second leak was rife on Friday, 8 May. Locals claim to have witnessed vapours escaping the factory.
The Andhra Pradesh police, however, has denied reports of a second leak from the LG Polymers plant in Visakhapatnam on Thursday night. Authorities said that the styrene gas was being neutralised.
“There are media reports that there was another leak. This is clarified that this was a minuscule technical leak. It’s required to bring the container in control. It’s been controlled and the process of neutralisation is already in process. Situation is under control.”Ministry of Home Affairs
Residents living within a 1 km radius were already evacuated on Thursday morning. As the impact of the vapours was felt in a 3km radius, more people living in a 5km radius were evacuated by the end of the day.
Fire officers and ambulances have been positioned in the perimeter for safety reasons. Government and NDRF officials have confirmed that the situation is under control.
The gas leak tragedy has claimed the lives of 11 persons, including two kids, and at least 250 have been hospitalised.
Efforts On to Neutralise Vapours
The leak has still not been completely contained and efforts are on to neutralise styrene vapours at the LG Polymers, confirmed J Siva Sankar Reddy, Joint Chief Inspector of Factories, Visakhapatnam to The Quint.
“Around 5,000 tonnes of polymer were kept in two tanks and was in the storage system. There was an automatic chain reaction because it is polymer. Due to that heat, vapours came out,” said Swaroop Rani, ACP West Visakhapatnam to The Quint.
The plant makes polystyrene – a versatile plastic used in fiber glass, rubber and latex, and for making toys and appliances.
The styrene material, a highly flammable liquid, is usually kept in a cold storage space that is completely refrigerated. The factory has been shut down since 22 March, when the nationwide lockdown was announced.
“Usually, when the material is used regularly there is no difference in temperature inside the tanks. For 40-43 days, the coolant material is available in the tanks. Sprinklers, placed one metre apart, help cool the tanks,” J Siva Sankar Reddy, Joint Chief Inspector of Factories, Visakhapatnam told The Quint.
A temperature difference at the top and bottom of the tank led to the formation of vapours.
Officials of the Andhra Pradesh Department of Factories and LG Polymers are using N-dodecyl mercaptan (NDM) and 4-tert-Butylcatechol (TCB) to neutralise the tanks. As of now they are using materials in their storage. The management is procuring these materials from Gujarat which is being flown in on priority.
Exposure to the gases causes nausea, dizziness, a burning sensation in the eyes, and breathing difficulties.
Andhra CM Declares Compensation for Victims
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Reddy has held a review meeting with the district officials and announced a compensation of Rs 1 crore for the families of those who lost their lives.
He said that those who are on ventilator support will receive a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each, and people who are hospitalised for a couple of days will receive Rs 25,000. People who received primary care and were sent back will receive a compensation of Rs 10,000.
According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), there seems to be haste on the part of the management to restart the plant, ignoring the protocol of doing maintenance of the plant before resuming operations.
Andhra Pradesh Industries Minister Mekapati Goutham Reddy said that criminal proceedings will be initiated against LG Polymers, if they are found negligent by not following due protocols.