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Gas leak at factory in India kills 11, hundreds affected

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Hundreds sick after accident at South Korean-owned factory

CHENNAI: At least 11 people were killed in India in a gas leak at a South Korean-owned factory making polystyrene products yesterday.

The leak made hundreds of people sick and led to the evacuation of villagers living nearby, officials said.

The accident occurred some 14km inland from the east coast city of Visakhapatnam, in Andhra Pradesh state, at a plant operated by LG Polymers, a unit of South Korea's biggest petrochemical maker, LG Chem Ltd.

Commissioner of the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation Srijana Gummalla said gas from styrene, a principal raw material at the plant, leaked during the early hours of the morning, when families in the surrounding villages were asleep.

Mr Yashwanth Saikumar Ambati, 23, who lives about 300m from the plant, said he woke up around 4.30am because of a strong smell.

"I went back to sleep and I woke up around six because the smell got stronger. My eyes were itchy, and I was feeling drowsy, light-headed and slightly breathless," hesaid, adding that neighbours also complained of eye irritation and stomach aches.

In a statement issued from Seoul, LG Chem said the gas emitted in the leak can cause nausea and dizziness when inhaled, adding that it was seeking to ensure casualties received treatment quickly.


Video shot yesterday showed emergency workers in the area rushing to help victims, some of whom appeared to be listless and disoriented.

A number of victims lay unconscious on the street, as volunteers fanned them and others carried them to ambulances.

A spokesman for LG Chem in Seoul said the leak was discovered by a night shift maintenance worker and has been brought under control.

The plant was being reopened after India relaxed a nationwide lockdown that had been imposed on March 25 to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

"I pray for everyone's safety and well-being in Visakhapatnam," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet.

Mr S.N. Pradhan, director general of the National Disaster Response Force, said that at least 11 had died after around 1,000 people living near the plant were exposed to the gas.

Ms B.V. Rani, a revenue official in the district, said she received a call around 4am from a police officer near the facility, who sounded panicky. "He asked me to come to the spot immediately," she said.

When she went there, she saw that people had collapsed unconscious in the village adjoining the 24ha site of the plant.

"I personally helped more than 15 people get to an ambulance," she said.

At least one child was among the dead, a policeman at the site told ANI, whose video showed at least two other children being lifted into an ambulance. - REUTERS