Andhra Pradesh looks to close down LG facility permanently3 min read . Updated: 08 May 2020, 10:25 AM IST
- Initial reports suggest the accident may have resulted from maintenance failures, operating errors and improper storage of the toxic gas
- The state government, headed by chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, is mulling to permanently shutter the facility
NEW DELHI: The Andhra Pradesh government is looking to permanently shut down South Korea’s LG Polymers' Visakhapatnam facility that was behind the toxic gas leak that claimed 11 lives.
While initial reports suggest that the accident may have resulted from maintenance failures, operating errors and improper storage of the toxic gas, given that the factories handling hazardous chemicals shouldn’t be located around densely populated urban settings, the state government headed by chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is mulling to permanently shutter the facility.
“This plant will have to be shut down in the longer term," said a senior state government official requesting anonymity.
This comes in the backdrop of the local residents of the RR Venkatapuram and the areas surrounding the facility demanding its permanent closure. The incident occurred at 3 am on Thursday and affected the surrounding villages of Narava, B.C Colony, Bapuji Nagar, Kampalapalem and Krishna Nagar.
On Thursday, the state government also constituted a committee comprising the special chief secretary of environment and forests, industries secretary, pollution control board secretary, district collector, and the Vishakhapatnam police commissioner to conduct a study for taking precautionary measures.
Experts say given the nature of the chemicals used, the facility should have been zoned off.
Styrene, the gas that leaked, is an important commercial chemical, which is used in making make plastics, paints, synthetic rubber, insulation, fibreglass, pipes, automobile parts, food containers and disposal cups.
The mishap is being termed as one of the deadliest industrial accidents since the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984. Thursday's tragedy killed 11 people, including a child, left hundreds of people hospitalized and forced the evacuation of thousands of others.
A technical glitch in the refrigeration unit attached to the two styrene tanks at the chemical plant caused the leak, PTI reported, citing district collector V. Vinay Chand.
A first information report, or FIR, has been registered against LG Polymers India Pvt. Ltd. The case has been registered against the company based on a complaint by village revenue officer M.V. Subba Rao, under sections 278 (making atmosphere noxious to health), 284 (negligent conduct with respect to poisonous substance), 285 (negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter), 337 (whoever causes hurt to any person by doing any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life) and 388 (extortion by threat of accusation of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life) of the Indian Penal Code.
AP director general of police, Gautam Sawang, at a press conference on Thursday, said that prima facie, the leakage of gas appeared to be an accident. “We shall look into the possibility of any negligence by the company authorities," he said.
The South Korea-owned LG Chem was making arrangements for reopening the plant from Thursday, after over a month of it being closed during the nationwide lockdown. The business started as Hindustan Polymers was acquired by Chaebol from the UB Group in 1978.
According to experts, styrene gas is stable when stored with recommended guidelines and a polymerization inhibitor which prevents any chemical reaction. However, if not stored properly, it can explode in the container in which it is kept. It is a storage hazard above 32°C, and any further temperature rise tends to speed up the chemical reaction.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday chaired a high-level meeting to take stock of the situation that was also attended by defense minister Rajnath Singh, home minister Amit Shah and other senior officials.
The Centre is seized of the situation with principal secretary to the PM P.K. Mishra keeping a close watch on the situation. Cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba also held a detailed review meeting on Thursday along with the secretaries of the ministries of home affairs, environment, forest and climate change, chemicals and petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, information and broadcasting; members of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and director general (DG), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF); director general of health services (DGHS) and director AIIMS, Dr Randeep Guleria.
Chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has announced an ex-gratia of ₹1 crore to families of victims. Reddy, also said all those who undergo treatment with the help of ventilators will be given a compensation of ₹10 lakh, while those who are hospitalized will receive Rs1 lakh, and people who receive only primary treatment will get a compensation of ₹25,000. Livestock lost will also be compensated, and those living in the most affected areas will also receive ₹10,000 from the state.