South Korea's LG Chemical on Thursday said a gas leak at its plant LG Polymers located near Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh has been brought under control. At least eight people including a child died after toxic gas leaked while over 1,000 people have been reportedly admitted to hospital.
Municipal Commissioner Srijana Gummalla said PVC gas or styrene leaked from the plant around 2.30 am. Because of the leak of the compound gas, hundreds of people living in the neighbourhood inhaled it and fell unconscious or complained of breathing problems, she said.
Ambulances, fire engines and policemen rushed to the chemical plant. Thousands of people were evacuated from the nearby villages. Synthetic chemical styrene leaked from the industrial plant in Andhra Pradesh, leaving people struggling to breathe and collapsing in the streets as they tried to flee.
Emergency services have evacuated villages and cordoned off a 3-kilometre (nearly 2-mile) radius around the LG Polymers plant in the Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh.
"We are currently assessing the extent of the damage on residents in the town and are taking all necessary measures to protect residents and employees in collaboration with related organizations," LG Chemical, the owner of LG Polymers, said in a statement.
LG Chemical said in a statement that the gas emitted in the leak can cause nausea and dizziness when inhaled. It said it was seeking to ensure casualties received treatment quickly.
What is LG Polymers:
LG Polymers India, from whose chemical plant in Visakhapatnam the gas leaked early Thursday, is part of the South Korean group LG Chemical and is headquartered in Mumbai.
Founded as Hindustan Polymers in 1961 for making polystyrene and its co-polymers at Visakhapatnam, the company was merged with McDowell & Co Ltd of UB Group in 1978.
Meanwhile, the South Korean group LG Chemical looked at India as an important market and in order to grow aggressively acquired Hindustan Polymers from UB group and renamed it as LG Polymers India in 1997.
According to LG Polymers, it is one of the leading manufacturers of polystyrene and expandable polystyrene in India.
What is Styrene?
Styrene, chemically known as ethylbenzene, is a synthetic chemical which has the texture of a colourless liquid. Styrene is commonly used in the manufacture of plastic products using in food packaging, rubber, plastic, insulation, fibreglass, pipes and automobile parts.
The Styrene gas affects the central nervous system, throat, skin, eyes and some other parts of the body. Styrene is highly flammable and releases a poisonous gas when burnt.
Styrene is used to make insulation, pipes, automobile parts, printing cartridges and copy machine toner, food containers, packaging material, carpet backing, luggage, shoes, toys, floor waxes and polishes, according to US National Library of Medicine. Cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust too contain styrene.