Gas leak survivors in the grip of trauma

‘Pungent smell still hangs in the air and it is difficult to come to terms with the horror’

May 14, 2020 11:32 pm | Updated 11:32 pm IST - VISAKHAPATNAM

RR Venkatapuram residents say they are spending sleepless nights.

RR Venkatapuram residents say they are spending sleepless nights.

Even as the authorities have announced that the areas affected by the gas leak tragedy at LG Polymers are safe for habitation, the residents of RR Venkatapuram and four other villages in the vicinity of the plant are worried over an uncertain future.

“Two of my family members are in hospital. A week has passed since the gas leak, but the pungent smell hangs heavy in the air. I returned from a relative’s house only after being told by the officials that our village is now out of danger. But, we can not convince ourselves,” says Y. Pydikonda whose husband is a contract worker at LG Polymers.

‘Still fresh in memory’

There are many in RR Venkatapuram, SC -BC Colony, Padanabhanagar and Nandamurinagar with a total population of about 25,000 who are under the grip of fear as the horror of gas leak incident is still fresh in their memory.

Rajanna Satish, a youth from Padmanabhanagar, a hamlet on the outskirts of RR Venkatapuram, did not leave his house immediately due to fear that his cattle would die. In the morning, he ventured out only to find his cattle dead. “We just can not make peace with the horrific experience of the early morning on May 7,” he says.

Most of the people settled in the five villages are from small landholdings in Pendurthi, Sabbavaram, Rambilli, Atchutapuram and Anakapalle.

Describing the gas leak as a tragic chapter, G. Hymavathi, Chairperson of State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said children and elderly are still staying put at their relatives’ houses as the fear of leakage is still making them tense.

‘32 children discharged’

“At least 32 of the 64 children who fell sick after the incident have been discharged. They need special care as they are enduring the trauma,” she said.

K.S. Chalam, a former member of National Human Rights Commission, said it was not the business of the government to ask people to return to their homes.

“The gas leak should not be viewed as an industrial incident, but as a chemical disaster such as Bhopal gas tragedy. The experts from NEERI and professors from Department of Environmental Sciences, Andhra University should recommend that the villages are fit for human habitation,” he said.

Counselling needed

He also agreed that due to trauma suffered by the survivors, arrangement should be done for organising counselling sessions for them.

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