Eleven people died after a gas leak at a chemical factory in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh while about 20 others are in critical care, disaster response officials said Thursday.
At least 800 people were said to have been taken to hospitals in Vishakhapatnam but most were released after receiving basic care, an official said.
The leak took place at the premises of LG Polymers and spread over the outskirts of the southern city of Vishakhapatnam in the early hours of Thursday, Andhra Pradesh police chief Gautam Sarang said.
The factory was undergoing maintenance as it prepared to open after a more than 40-day lockdown due to the new coronavirus.
It is run by the South Korean firm and produced polystyrene and plastics. Initial investigations showed the gas leaked from a silo containing the chemical compound called styrene, Sarang said.
Nearby residents complained of eye and throat irritation followed by breathing difficulties. Some of them collapsed while others lost consciousness.
“Rescue workers found people lying unconscious in ditches and roadsides. They collapsed while trying to leave the area. One of those who died fell into a well,” Sarang said.
Television footage showed unconscious women lying on the street and animals foaming at the mouth.
“At least 800 people were taken to hospitals in Vishakhapatnam and most were released after receiving basic care, officials said. Around 350 remained in hospital.
“Eleven people had died so far,” National Disaster Response Force Director General SN Pradhan said at a briefing in New Delhi.
A team trained to handle chemical disasters was at the site, Pradhan said, adding: “The situation is under control.”
More than 3,000 people living in two villages near the factory have been evacuated.
“Rescue teams went from door to door and sometimes broke them open to take out the residents as these were locked when they went to sleep,” Sarang said.
A 3-kilometre radius around the factory was affected and local authorities put out messages on social networking sites and public address systems asking people to leave the area and cover their faces with wet masks or cloth.
Investigations would look at whether there were any shortcomings in following protocols while reopening after the lockdown, Andhra Pradesh industries minister MG Reddy told India Today news channel.
“We will take stringent action against anyone found at fault,” he said.
Special forensic teams were at the site along with LG officials, Sarang said.
Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)