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Residents demand closure of chemical plant in India over gas leak

Christian Fernsby |
Angry residents mourning deaths of gas leak victims Saturday demanded closure of the chemical plant in the southeastern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, officials said.

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Topics: INDIA    GAS    LEAK   

The protesters, over 300 in number, gathered at the LG Polymers plant in Visakhapatnam. They kept bodies of the victims on road and shouted slogans, demanding justice. The irate villagers who returned back from the adjacent villages after two days tried to storm the plant premises, demanding immediate relocation of the factory.

"We want immediate closure of this deadly plant. We don't want repetition of Thursday's tragedy again," said K L Brijesh, a protester.

On early Thursday when people were asleep, a toxic gas leak from the chemical plant killed 12 and made hundreds ill. The gas leak jolted people out of their sleep, complaining irritation in eyes and difficulty in breathing. Officials said more than 350 were hospitalized.

Television footage showed emergency workers in the area rushing to help victims, some of whom appeared to be listless and disoriented. Several victims lay unconscious roadside, as some people fanned them while others rushed to carry them into ambulances.

Following the incident, authorities had to evacuate people in five-km radius as a precautionary measure.

So far three bodies have been handed over to their families after autopsy. The mourners kept the bodies shrouded in black cloth on the road outside the factory in a bid to register their protest and show anger.

Locals said policemen deployed outside the chemical plant resorted to baton charging to disperse the protesters, who were trying to move inside. Several protesters were detained and whisked away from the spot.

Media reported that police had a tough time controlling the protesters.

"Two days have gone by and so far no one from the company has been arrested for this mishap," Brijesh said. "We are demanding justice and policemen beat us with batons."

Locals said the bodies were later shifted to Venkatapuram village for cremation.

Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh Director General of Police D Gautam Sawang told reporters that the investigation into the gas leak would be taken to a "logical conclusion."

"We are not here to protect anybody. The investigation has begun and we shall take action based on the investigation. There is no need for the villagers to get agitated," Sawang said.

LG Polymers India Saturday blamed leaking vapour from a storage tank for the leakage of deadly styrene monomer gas at its Visakhapatnam plant.

"At the onset, LG Polymers India would like to express sincere condolences and apologies to all who have been affected by this incident. We would like to assure everyone that the company is committed to work closely with the concerned authorities in India to investigate the cause of this incident, prevent recurrence in the future, and secure the foundation for care and treatment," a statement issued by the company said.

The company owned by South Korea's LG Chem Ltd said they express their deepest condolences to the victims and families who have been hurt and affected by this incident, and they promise to do their best to handle the situation and prevent any such incident in the future.

"We are happy to confirm that the status-quo at the plant is brought under control this morning," the company said. "Our teams are working day and night with the government to create concrete measures to deliver an effective care package that can be implemented immediately."

The incident at Visakhapatnam evoked memories of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy that left at least 3,787 people dead and another 500,000 injured when methyl isocyanate leaked from a Union Carbide pesticide plant in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

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