An apparent gas leak at a chemical factory owned by the South Korean company LG Corp. in eastern India made at least 1,000 people sick early Thursday, according to local media reports.
Video footage showed dozens of men and women lying unconscious in the street. At least three people were reported dead, with dozens more admitted to nearby hospitals, local officials were quoted as saying. The police were trying to evacuate hundreds from their homes near the factory.
Doctors at the King George Hospital in Visakhapatnam, an eastern port city in Andra Pradesh State where the factory is, said patients had been exposed to styrene gas, which is used to make plastics and rubber and can be dangerous.
It is unclear what caused the leak. But a former employee said the factory may have been restarted after the lockdown was lifted, but without proper maintenance work done. All of India was under lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus, but parts of the country are allowing more businesses to reopen this week.
Videos showed women and men splayed out on the street, unconscious. Another showed a stray dog struggling to use its legs to stand before collapsing on the floor. Other photos showed panicked citizens cramming the ill and unconscious into motorized rickshaws and on the backs of mopeds as they raced to the hospital.
Some of the images immediately drew comparison to the 1984 gas leak in India’s Bhopal State, considered the world’s worst industrial accident. That leak, at a Union Carbide pesticide plant, left nearly 4,000 dead and another 500,000 injured.
While the Bhopal disaster brought to the fore India’s dangerous industrial practices, forcing the government to improve safety standards, industrial accidents still persist across the country.