In its first response after a major gas leak at its plant in Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, LG Chem has said the situation is now under control and it is exploring "all ways to provide speedy treatment" for victims. The company said it was investing the exact cause of the leak and deaths. "The gas leak situation is now under control and we are exploring all ways to provide speedy treatment for those who suffered from inhaling the leaked gas. We are investigating the extent of damage and exact cause of the leak and deaths," a company statement said.
Since LG Chem is a South Korean company, South Korea's Ambassador to India, Shin Bong-kil, issued a statement, saying he was shocked and saddened by the news of the accident. Calling it an "unfortunate incident", he expressed deepest condolences to those affected. "We pray for the speedy recovery of those who have been taken ill," he added.
As per initial reports, the gas leak at the Vizag factory was apparently triggered by malfunctioning of a valve. Total 11 people have died and more than 200 have been hospitalised in the incident. A senior official investigating the matter said the "the valve controls for the gas were not handled properly and they burst causing the leak". The leakage happened around 2:30 am at LG's Polymers unit at RR Venkatapuram near Naiduthota, Gopalapatnam, and impacted villages in a five-km radius. The gas is used in production of plastic.
The styrene gas can have serious effects on health and cause upper respiratory tract problems and irritation in eyes and skin. Exposure to styrene, also known as ethenylbenzene, vinylbenzene can also affect the central nervous system (CNS), causing headache, fatigue, weakness, and depression.
LG Polymers India Private Limited, owned by South Korean battery maker LG Chemical, was established in 1961 as "Hindustan Polymers" for manufacturing polystyrene and its co-polymers at Visakhapatnam, India. In 1978, the company was later merged with McDowell & Company Ltd. of Vittal Mallya-led United Breweries Group. In July, 1997, LG Chemical acquired 100 per cent stake in Hindustan Polymers and renamed it as LG Polymers India Private Limited (LGPI).