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Home » The Human Element » Gas leak at South Korea-owned factory in India kills 13, hundreds hospitalised

Gas leak at South Korea-owned factory in India kills 13, hundreds hospitalised

PortandTerminal.com, MAY 7, 2020

CHENNAI, INDIA – At least 13 people were killed in southern India by a gas leak. Emergency services rushed over 300 people to hospitals and evacuated 1,500 from a nearby village, a police official said.

The incident took place just 9 miles inland from the major port city of Visakhapatnam in India.

The gas leak occurred at a South Korean-owned factory, LG Polymers, a unit of South Korea’s biggest petrochemical maker, LG Chem Ltd. The factory produces polystyrene products.

Smoke is seen at LG Polymers plant in Visakhapatnam, India
Smoke is seen at LG Polymers plant in Visakhapatnam, India May 7, 2020 REUTERS/R Narendra

Authorities have said that styrene gas leaked from the plant during the early hours of the morning when families in the surrounding villages were asleep. The raw material, styrene, is highly flammable and releases a poisonous gas when burnt.

Children overcome by the gas being rushed to hospital
Children overcome by the gas being rushed to hospital

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

Plant reopening after coronavirus lockdown

People gathering outside the gates of LG Polymers
People gathering outside the gates of LG Polymers, which was just reopening after being locked down over coronavirus spread concerns.

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

South Korea’s top petrochemical maker by capacity, LG Chem acquired the plant in 1997 and established LG Polymers India Private Limited (LGPI), according to a company website.

The LG Polymers plant makes polystyrene products which are used in manufacturing electric fan blades, cups and cutlery and containers for cosmetic products such as make up.

Memories of Bhopal Gas tragedy

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.

In 1984 a gas leak at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, India exposed half a million people living nearby to deadly methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas.  Estimates vary on how many people it killed. The official immediate death toll was 2,259. Others estimate that 8,000 died within two weeks, and another 8,000 or more have since died from gas-related diseases.

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