At least five people were killed and several hundred were hospitalized in local hospitals after a gas leak at a chemical plant on the east coast of India, police said on Thursday.
"We can confirm at least five deaths at the moment. More will be confirmed later. At least 70 people in nearby hospitals are unconscious and in general 200 to 500 residents are still receiving treatment (in hospitals)," said the police officer. Swaroop Rani in the port city of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh State.
She said the incident happened at a plant operated by LG Polymers and that the gas leaked from two 5,000-ton tanks that were unattended due to the coronavirus blockade in India since late March.
He spoke with MHA and NDMA officials about the situation in Visakhapatnam, which is being monitored closely.
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"It was left because of the blockade. This led to a chemical reaction and the heat was produced inside the tanks, and the gas leaked because of it," Rani, an assistant commissioner, told AFP news agency.
"We received an emergency call from local residents at about 3:30 am local time [22:00 GMT] morning. They said there was some gas in the air, "she said.
"We got there immediately. It was possible to feel the gas in the air and it was not possible for any of us to be there for more than a few minutes. Prepared rescue workers started work around four in the morning. [22:30 GMT]. "
Images posted on Twitter showed emergency services, including police, firefighters and ambulances at the scene. However, Al Jazeera was unable to verify the authenticity of the images.
& # 39; Under control & # 39;
G Kishan Reddy, deputy interior minister, told the Indian news agency ANI that National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams were asked to provide immediate relief measures.
SN Pradhan, head of the NDRF, told ANI that 80 to 90% of people were evacuated.
South Korean battery maker LG Chemical Ltd, which owns the facility, said the situation was "under control".
"The gas leak situation is now under control and we are exploring all ways to provide rapid treatment for those who suffer from inhaling the leaked gas," said LG Chem, owner of LG Polymers India, operator of the Visakhapatnam plant.
"We are investigating the extent of the damage and the exact cause of the leak and deaths," added the statement.
According to the Times of India newspaper, the incident led to panic among locals within a three-kilometer radius around the factory, with many people seen unconscious on the roads.
Others had respiratory problems and complained of rashes on their bodies and sore eyes, he added.
Ambulances were shown arriving to collect the wounded by the side of the road and take them to hospitals in the region.
India witnessed in December 1984 one of the worst industrial disasters in history when gas leaked from a pesticide plant in the central city of Bhopal.
About 3,500 people, mainly in slums of the factory operated by Union Carbide, died in the days that followed and thousands more in the years that followed. People continue to experience its side effects today.
Government statistics say that at least 100,000 people living near the Union Carbide factory have been victims of chronic diseases.
Survivors still suffer from diseases like respiratory and kidney problems, hormonal imbalances, mental illness and various forms of cancer.
Al Jazeera and news agencies