Visakhapatnam gas leak: LG Polymers neglected safety norms, finds govt probe

The company — owned by South Korea’s LG Chem Ltd — also ignored a warning sign in December last year, the report said

Published: Wednesday 08 July 2020

A negligence in safety norms led to the leak of toxic styrene gas in the LG Polymers Ltd chemical plant in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam that killed 12 and hospitalised thousands on May 7, 2020, found a probe report.

There was a total breakdown in the response to the gas leak as well, the report — submitted to the Andhra Pradesh government on July 6 — said. There were at least 36 places in the factory premises where the alarm systems and sirens were not functional, according to the 4,000-page report.

LG Polymers — owned by South Korea’s LG Chem Ltd — also ignored a warning sign in December last year, the report pointed out.

The report also recommended factories such as the one owned by LG Polymers not be allowed to function in populated areas.

The site where the factory is located has several villages nearby. There were reports of chaos in many of these villages at the time of the gas leak.

Women and children were seen lying unconscious in the streets, according to local media reports that said the elderly and children were the most prone to the gas leak.

The police, as a precautionary measure, had evacuated five villages close to the plant.

Twelve arrests were made on July 7 over the gas leak. Sunkey Jeong, the managing director and Chief Executive Officer and DS Kim, the technical director of LG Polymers were among those who were arrested. 

The plant had restarted operations a few days prior to the accident amid the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had, in its first assessment, attributed the accident to the company’s negligence in adhering to safety protocols.

The leak occurred as a result of styrene gas not being kept at the appropriate temperature. This caused a pressure build-up in the storage chamber that contained styrene and caused the valve to break, resulting in the gas leakage.

The container that was being used to store styrene gas was old and not properly maintained. This non-maintenance of the facility resulted in three tonnes of styrene leaking into the surrounding areas.

The probe report into the accident was submitted by a committee led by the Andhra Pradesh Environment and Forests Special Chief Secretary Neerab Kumar Prasad.

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