Vizag gas leak | When the call of duty weighed more than life

Policemen recount their travails during the horrific of gas leak in Visakhapatnam

May 19, 2020 11:35 pm | Updated May 20, 2020 09:16 am IST - VISAKHAPATNAM

A file picture of a gas leak victim being rushed to hospital in a police vehicle, in Visakhapatnam on May 7.

A file picture of a gas leak victim being rushed to hospital in a police vehicle, in Visakhapatnam on May 7.

It was around 3.20 a.m. on May 7 when Gopalapatnam police inspector P. Ramanayya got a phone call from the control room about a gas leak from LG Polymers at RR Venkatapuram.

The information shared was too sketchy to understand what exactly happened, but he realised that the situation warranted intervention on a war-footing. Mr. Ramanayya sent an SOS to SI G.R.L Satyanarayana who lives near the LG Polymers and rushed to the spot, along with reserve inspector T. Bhagavan and a team of police personnel from the crime and traffic wings of Gopalapatnam station.

Two failed attempts

“A thick sheet of fog engulfed the area. We saw people running helter-skelter amid the din. As we approached to LG Ploymers, we found people lying unconscious on roads,” says Mr. Ramanayya.

Mr. Satyanarayana and a team of police tried to enter the area from the main route in a Rakshak vehicle and two motorcycles. “Two attempts to reach Venkatapuram from the main gate route of LG Polymers turned futile. We developed bouts of vomiting and irritation in our eyes as we moved closer to the premises,” says Mr. Satyanarayana.

The SI says the team understood that there was life risk if they entered the area. “We were scared. But, lives were at stake and it was call of duty. We decided to enter the area again,” he says.

Golden hour

Then, the police team sent vehicles via Naidu Thota to Nandamuri Nagar, behind the Venkatapuram, and rescue as many people as they could.

The vehicles made announcements with loud speakers and used sirens. Alerts were sent to health officials to send ambulances and RTC authorities to send buses for evacuation. A call seeking police reinforcement was also made.

“Entering the core area of LG Polymers through its main gate was tough. We decided to enter the area in the vehicles with the windows rolled up,” says Mr. Ramanayya.

Be it rescuing the people lying unconscious on roads and others who fell sick, breaking open the houses to pull out the inmates or facilitating the evacuation of thousands, they did it all.

“Pungent smell hung heavy in the air and our team members also fell sick. But, we did not budge,” he says.

According to Mr. Satyanarayana, the rescue mission would not have been a success without the cooperation of the local youth who rose to the occasion.

As many as 150 people struck in the core area were evacuated in the golden hour.

A number of policemen from Gopalapatnam station who took part in the rescue mission remained hospitalised for four days.

Later, around 30 personnel received appreciation letters from Director General of police (DGP) D. Gautam Sawang for their grit during the emergency situation.

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