Hundreds hospitalised after styrene gas leak in India

Article by Amanda Doyle

unreguser/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images
Styrene gas leaked at the LG Chemical plant in Visakhapatnam, India

A GAS leak at an Indian chemical factory has killed at least 11 people and hospitalised hundreds. The styrene tanks had been left unattended due to India’s coronavirus lockdown.

The LG Chemical plant, located in Visakhapatnam on India’s east coast, had been offline due to India’s coronavirus lockdown which began on 24 March. Relaxing of lockdown restrictions led to the plant restarting operations, which is when the leak occurred. Maintenance personnel were on-site at the time of the leak.

Two 5,000 t tanks of styrene leaked due a fault in the refrigeration unit, according to The Hindu, which created a styrene vapour cloud that spread around 3 km from the plant and affected five villages. It occurred around 03:00 local time on 7 May and at least 11 people were killed, including two children.

According to The Guardian, the gas caused people to collapse in the streets as they tried to evacuate. Dead cattle were also lying in the streets. Reports suggest 300–1,000 people have been hospitalised, with hospitals already under strain due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Victims suffer from a burning sensation in their eyes as well as breathing difficulties, with some needing ventilators. The BBC reported that according to officials, most should recover.

The gas leak is now under control, according to The New York Times.

The accident echoes the Bhopal tragedy in India in 1984, when a gas leak from a pesticide plant killed thousands and caused chronic illnesses for at least 100,000 people in the area.

This article was amended to correct the number of dead from 13 to 11.

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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