CHENNAI - A chemical gas leak at an LG Polymers plant in southern India on Thursday killed at least 9 people, and emergency services rushed more than 300 to hospital and evacuated hundreds more from nearby areas, a police official in Andhra Pradesh state said.
The commissioner of the Visakhapatnam city corporation said styrene leaked from the plant during the early hours of the morning, when families in the surrounding villages were asleep.
"Hundreds of people have inhaled it and either fell unconscious or having breathing issues," Srijana Gummalla, Commissioner, Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation said on Twitter.
Swarupa Rani, an Assistant Commissioner of Police in Visakhapatnam, told Reuters that at least 9 people had died and between 300-400 hospitalized. Another 1,500 people had been evacuated, mostly from a neighboring village.
Areas within an approximately 3-kilometer (nearly 2-mile)radius of the plant were vulnerable, the municipal corporation said in a tweet. Cross-referencing maps of the affected area, there is at least one coronavirus containment zone in the neighborhood.
Images posted on Twitter showed emergency services including police officers, fire tenders and ambulances at the spot.
Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the images.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he had spoken to officials from the federal home ministry and the National Disaster Management Authority, who were monitoring the crisis.
"I pray for everyone’s safety and well-being in Visakhapatnam," Modi said in a tweet.
The LG Polymers plant makes polystyrene products, according to a company website, which are used in manufacturing electric fan blades, cups and cutlery and containers for cosmetic products such as make up.
The raw material, styrene, is highly flammable and releases a poisonous gas when burnt.
South Korean battery maker LG Chemical Ltd, the owner of the facility, was not immediately available for comment.
Thursday's incident evoked memories of a gas leak at an factory of U.S. chemical firm Union Carbide that killed thousands in the central Indian city of Bhopal in 1984.
(Reporting by Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Derek Francis; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Anil D'Silva & Simon Cameron-Moore)