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Thursday, May 7, 2020

May 07, 2020
The LG Polymers plant near Visakhapatnam. ©  Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation / Srijana Gummalla
A gas leak at a chemical plant in India has killed several people and put hundreds in hospital with breathing difficulties. Chilling images have emerged showing victims lying motionless on the ground in the wake of the tragedy.

There have been conflicting reports as to the number of victims that perished in the gas leak which emitted from the LG Polymers plant near Visakhapatnam in the eastern state of Andhra Pradesh early on Thursday morning. Reuters reported that the accident claimed the lives of at least nine people, citing police, while some local outlets reported that about 300 were hospitalized and 5,000 were sickened. Among the casualties are two elderly residents and a seven-year-old girl.

The gas, believed to be Styrene, is highly toxic when inhaled in high enough concentrations.

“People have passed out after inhaling the gas. Even our [police personnel's] eyes are still burning and we feel nauseous,” Gopalapatnam Sub-Inspector Venkat Rao told the media.

The aftermath of the leak was captured in photos and videos that have circulated on social media, some of them highly graphic, showing a number of victims laying on the ground apparently struggling to breathe. It is unclear whether they are merely unconscious or whether they succumbed to the gas.

Other harrowing images showed what appeared to be lifeless bodies in a nearby canal, as well as dead livestock with a white foamy substance around their mouths strewn about the area, while some local reports published images of children affected in the massive leak.

Some 1,000 people have been admitted to nearby hospitals, AFP reported, citing sources, while local media said that between 1,500 and 2,000 beds had been prepared in total. A municipal official also took to Twitter on Thursday morning saying the leak occurred around 2:30am, and that “hundreds” had either fallen unconscious or experienced trouble breathing after inhaling the toxic chemical. Some victims also developed headaches, bouts of vomiting and a burning sensation in their eyes.
The Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) issued a warning for residents, stating “There is gas leakage identified at LG Polymers ... Requesting citizens around these locations not to come out of houses for the sake of safety precautions.” The GVMC also advised villagers to use a “wet mask” or cloth to avoid inhaling the gas.