‘It turned into a fog’: Locals recount Vizag gas leak in which 11 were killed
As rescuers rushed to take people to the hospital, many others were seen gasping for breath as they tried to flee, disoriented by the vapours.Updated: May 08, 2020 07:45 IST
Thursday was going to be a normal day for people living in RR Venkatapuram village near Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. But, even before they could wake up, a deadly gas leaked from a chemical factory nearby and jolted them out of their sleep.
The pre-dawn disaster - it struck at 2.30 am - led to the death of 11 people and left more than 1,000 struggling for breath.
Video from news agency ANI 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 streetside, as some volunteers fanned them and others rushed to carry them into ambulances. The scene evoked memories of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy that left at least 4,000 people dead and another 500,000 injured when methyl isocyanate leaked from a Union Carbide pesticide plant in the Madhya Pradesh capital.
“The leak was so intense that it turned into a fog and only around 9.30 am could we understand what exactly it was as the thick fog that formed in the area cleared,” news agency PTI quoted district collector V Vinay Chand as saying.
The gas spread to villages over a five kilometre radius.
As rescuers rushed to take people to the hospital, many others were seen gasping for breath as they tried to flee, disoriented by the vapours. “No one could breathe. I couldn’t see anything for some time,” Vijay Raju, a local resident, said by phone. “For a moment, I thought I would die.”
Narendra, another villager, said he sensed something was wrong after he woke up in the middle of the night. “Around 2.30 am, I woke up as my skin was itching. I opened my eyes but felt a burning sensation. I sensed some danger and woke up my family,” he said.
State authorities and officials from LG Polymers said they were investigating what caused the leak but a preliminary situation report by district officials said the trigger was a malfunction in equipment, which caused the temperature to rise and the organic compound styrene - normally a liquid - to vaporise.