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(4th LD) LG Chem launches probe into gas leak at Indian plant

All News 22:58 May 07, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with possible rise in death toll in 4th para)

SEOUL, May 7 (Yonhap) -- LG Chem Ltd., South Korea's leading chemical firm, said Thursday it has launched an internal probe to try to find the exact cause of a deadly gas leak at its plant in India, as an Indian official warned of taking criminal action.

This AFP photo shows people gathering in front of the LG Polymers chemical plant in Visakhapatnam in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh on May 7, 2020. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

LG Chem said the gas leak has been brought under control and that the company is taking all steps to ensure affected people can swiftly receive medical treatment.

Foreign media reported that the gas leak at the LG Polymers chemical plant in Visakhapatnam in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh killed at least 11 people and sickened thousands of villagers.

Indian media reported that the death toll from the accident could climb by as much as 20 people as many seriously ill people are on ventilators.

The Indian Express said many fell unconscious on roads and hundreds of people who were unconscious or experiencing breathing difficulties were brought to King George Hospital.

The accident took place early Thursday when workers were preparing to reopen the plant after the lockdown imposed over the coronavirus pandemic, the Indian Express reported, citing Andhra Pradesh Commerce Minister M Goutham Reddy.

(4th LD) LG Chem launches probe into gas leak at Indian plant - 2

"Our initial information is that workers were checking a gas storage tank when it started leaking," Reddy was quoted as saying.

Reddy said LG Chem has to be responsible for the gas leak mishap and explain which protocols were followed and which were not followed.

"Accordingly, criminal action will be taken against them," he said in comments posted on the website of the Times of India.

The Hindu, an Indian English-language newspaper, said there was a leak of styrene gas from the plant.

Styrene is primarily used in the production of polystyrene plastics and resins. Short-term exposure to styrene results in mucous membrane and eye irritation, and gastrointestinal effects, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The LG Polymers plant, which LG Chem acquired from Hindustan Polymers in 1996, produces a wide-range of polystyrene, including engineering plastic, an industrial raw material for automobiles and electronic parts.

"I pray for everyone's safety and well-being in Visakhapatnam," Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter, adding that the situation is "being monitored closely."

South Korean Ambassador to India Shin Bong-kil also expressed condolences over the incident, saying he was "shocked and saddened" by the news.

"We pray for the speedy recovery of those who have been taken ill," he said in a statement.

entropy@yna.co.kr
(END)

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