Visakhapatnam

Andhra Pradesh: Two years on, styrene monomer still haunts people of Vizag

Survivors of LG Polymers styrene monomer leak incident burning of dummies LG products  in Visakhapatnam on Friday.

Survivors of LG Polymers styrene monomer leak incident burning of dummies LG products in Visakhapatnam on Friday. | Photo Credit: K.R. DEEPAK

Even after two years, the incident of styrene monomer fumes engulfing a part of the city still haunts the people of Visakhapatnam, especially in the villages of R.R. Venkatapuram, Padmapuram, BC Colony, Gopalapatnam, and Kamparapalem, that were affected the most.

On May 7, at around 3 a.m., the people of the five villages were woken up, as the fumes streamed into their nostrils. They poisonous fumes, choked the residents and disoriented them.

All the five villages are in the vicinity of the LG Polymers plant, from where the fumes leaked out of a storage tank on May 7, 2020. The residents of RR Venkatapuram were the worst hit, as the village abuts the chemical factory. Twelve persons died and over 2,000 were hospitalised within a span of three hours.

The family members of Annepu Chandramouli (19) are still to come to terms that the aspiring medical student, who was the son of a police constable, is no more. Chandramouli, who had gone to bed late that night after studying, was jolted out of sleep by the vapour. His visibility was affected and he was unable to breathe. The disoriented young man ran towards the balcony instead of the door and toppled down from the second floor to death.

Disoriented people choked to death on roads, as they tried to run away from the fumes that was encroaching their habitat, with the flow of the wind.

Resilient Vizag

That day, the people of Vizag once again proved their resilience, as they jumped into action in no time. Even before the NDRF teams could arrive, the City Police personnel led by the then Commissioner of Police R.K. Meena, the GVMC team led by the then Commissioner G. Srijana and District Collector, evacuated the people braving the fumes.

1,000 affected

According to the High Power Committee (HPC), set up by the State Government, about 1,000 people suffered different forms of illnesses that ranged from kidney to neurological issues and from gastrointestinal issues to problems related to vision.

The committee also stated in its report that the root cause was poor design of the M6 tank from where the fumes leaked out, inadequate refrigeration and cooling system,  absence of circulation of mixing systems, inadequate measurement parameters, poor safety protocol, poor safety awareness, inadequate risk assessment and response, poor process safety management systems, slackness of management, insufficient knowledge amongst staff, insufficient knowledge of the chemical properties of Styrene, especially during storage under idle conditions and total breakdown of the emergency response procedures.

But despite the strong report, so far no action had been taken against the management, said CPI(M) State Secretariat member Ch. Narasinga Rao.

The clinic that was opened to monitor the health closed down after a few weeks and there is no mechanism to monitor the health of the people affected, which should have been done on priority basis, and which is mandated by the protocol in disaster management, he said.

Protest

Staging a protest on the eve of the second anniversary near GVMC Gandhi statue, the members of Left parties and the survivors of the incident, demanded the immediate setting up of a super-speciality hospital, compensation for the family members of the three people who died later undergoing treatment, and immediate action against the management of LG Polymers.

In a unique protest, they burnt the cardboard models of LG products and said that if action was not initiated against the people responsible, they would picket the LG showrooms in the city.


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Printable version | May 28, 2022 10:06:52 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Visakhapatnam/andhra-pradesh-two-years-on-styrene-monomer-still-haunts-people-of-vizag/article65388733.ece