A gas leak at a chemical plant in southern India has killed at least nine people, with more than 300 rushed to hospital and hundreds more evacuated from nearby areas, local authorities say.

South Korean battery maker LG Chemical Ltd, the owner of the facility, located around 14km from Visakhapatnam city, said the gas leak had been brought under control.

“We are looking into the exact damages, cause of the death and details of the incident,” the company said in a statement on Thursday.

Smokes rise from the LG Polymers plant.

Smokes rise from the LG Polymers plant.


The commissioner of the Visakhapatnam city corporation said styrene leaked from the plant during the early hours of the morning, when families in the surrounding villages were asleep.

Srijana Gummalla, commissioner of the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation, told Reuters that the plant had been reopened in the past few days after India relaxed a nationwide lockdown imposed on 25 March to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Swarupa Rani, an assistant commissioner of police in Visakhapatnam told Reuters that at least nine people had died and between 300 and 400 were hospitalised. Another 1,500 people had been evacuated, mostly from a neighbouring village.

In an interview with local news channel NDTV, SN Pradhan, director general of the National Disaster Response Force, said the situation was under control.

“The gas leakage has been stopped and the quantities should now be more manageable and we should be able to evacuate people to safety,” said Mr Pradhan.

Local revenue official BV Rani said she got a call at around 4am on Thursday from a panicking police sub-inspector near the facility. “He asked me to come to the spot immediately,” Ms Rani told Reuters.

When Ms Rani went there, she saw people had collapsed unconscious in the village adjoining the plant.

“I personally helped more than 15 people get to an ambulance who had tried to run away from the village but dropped down a few metres away,” she said.

Video from Reuters partner ANI showed emergency workers rushing to help victims, some of whom appeared to be listless and disoriented.

A number of victims lay unconscious streetside, as volunteers fanned them and others rushed them into ambulances.

At least one child was among the dead, a policeman at the site told ANI.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had spoken to federal home ministry and disaster officials.

“I pray for everyone’s safety and well-being in Visakhapatnam,” Mr Modi said in a tweet.

LG Chem, South Korea’s top petrochemical maker by capacity, took over the facility previously owned by Hindustan Polymers in July, 1997, according to a company website.

The LG Polymers plant makes polystyrene products which are used in manufacturing electric fan blades, cups and cutlery and containers for cosmetic products such as make up.

The raw material, styrene, is highly flammable and releases a poisonous gas when burnt.

In a statement, LG Chem said that the gas emitted in the leak can cause nausea and dizziness when inhaled, adding that it was seeking to ensure casualties received treatment quickly.