After a gas leak at a chemical plant on India’s east coast, at least six people were killed and 1,000 hospitalized, officials said Thursday, warning the death toll would rise.
According to a local police officer, the gas leaked out of two 5,000-ton tanks that had been unattended since late March due to India’s coronavirus lockdown.
Footage on Indian television channels showed people lying in the streets of Visakhapatnam, an industrial port town in Andhra Pradesh state, including women and children.
“We can confirm at least five deaths right now. More will be confirmed late,” Swaroop Rani, an assistant police commissioner, in Visakhapatnam, told AFP.
B K Naik, Coordinator of District Hospitals, said that at least 1,000 people were sent to various hospitals, and that many more were feared in their homes might be unconscious.
“Another thing is that it is still too early in the morning, and there are people who were sleeping inside their homes (around the gas leak) and are unconscious,” Naik told AFP.
“The authorities are checking (in houses) as well. We are working to get people to the hospital. They need oxygenation and fresh air.”
Pictures taken by AFP at the city’s King George Hospital showed two to three patients on each bed, many children and many unconscious patients.
Many of the patients in the sparse hospital were lying on the beds wearing just shorts, and without tops or shoes.
The plant was run by LG Polymers in the outskirts of Visakhapatnam. About five million people live in the town and the surrounding area. The complex is owned by LG Chem, from South Korea.
“(The gas) was left there because of the lockdown. It led to a chemical reaction and heat was produced inside the tanks, and the gas leaked because of that,” Rani said.