At least 11 people died after styrene gas leaked from the LG Polymers factory in the city of Visakhapatnam, although the death toll is feared to increase.
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NEW DELHI – Hundreds of people were taken to the hospital after a styrene gas leak at a chemical plant in southeastern India.
At least 11 people died after the spill occurred in the middle of the night in the city of Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, although the death toll is expected to increase. More than 1,000 people are thought to be sick as a result of the incident.
Operations at the LG Polymers plant, owned by South Korea, were only resuming due to related to coronavirus restrictions in force since March. A spokesman in Seoul confirmed that a security guard discovered the leak overnight.
Styrene is a gas used to make plastics and rubber. Extremely distressing photos and videos of people struggling to breathe and collapse on the sidewalks have been posted online. Several showed soft bodies of adults and children being loaded into cars and ambulances.
The director general of India's National Disaster Response Force told NDTV that people in the hospital were semi-conscious, showing signs of nausea and skin irritation.
According AP, an eight-year-old girl was among those who died and also a person who died falling into a well while trying to escape the gas.
A member of the state police said Huffpost India that at least 70 people are in critical condition in different hospitals, while the general director of police said that 20 people are using ventilators.
"We are currently assessing the extent of damage to city residents and are taking all necessary measures to protect residents and employees in collaboration with related organizations," LG Chem, owner of LG Polymers, said in a statement. Another LG Polymers representative told the chief minister of state that, for victims to decrease, emissions would have to "reach zero", which had not yet happened.
A Gujarat state official said 500 kg of another chemical that would likely neutralize the gas leak was being flown to the chemical plant.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he spoke to officials from the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the National Disaster Management Authority, who were monitoring the crisis.
From India National Commission on Human Rights it also notified the deaths as a result of the spill and asked state officials to conduct an investigation.