Indian police file complaint against LG Chem after deadly gas leak


A man carries a fainted young girl (R) to evacuate her following a gas leak incident at an LG Polymers plant in Visakhapatnam on May 7, 2020. - Eleven people were killed and hundreds hospitalised after a pre-dawn gas leak at a chemical plant in eastern India on May 7 that left unconscious victims lying in the streets, authorities said. (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)
A man carries a fainted young girl (R) to evacuate her following a gas leak incident at an LG Polymers plant in Visakhapatnam on May 7, 2020. - Eleven people were killed and hundreds hospitalised after a pre-dawn gas leak at a chemical plant in eastern India on May 7 that left unconscious victims lying in the streets, authorities said. (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

INDIAN police have filed a complaint against an LG Chem subsidiary over a toxic gas leak at its chemical plant in the south of the country that killed 11 people and sickened almost a thousand more.

Authorities doubled the evacuation area around the factory in Andhra Pradesh to a five kilometre (three mile) radius on Friday (8), a day after the gas first began leaking. Around 800 people were hospitalised.

A copy of the police complaint filed against the management of LG Chem’s subsidiary LG Polymers, cited several counts of negligence and culpable homicide.

The report, which precedes a full police investigation and potential charges, refers to negligent handling of poisonous substances and causing hurt and endangering public life due to negligence. Culpable homicide is classifed as not amounting to murder.

An LG Chem spokesman in Seoul declined to comment on the police report, Reuters reported.

There was confusion about whether Friday’s expanded evacuation orders were sparked by a renewed leak, as reported by at least one local fire official, or by the fear that rising temperatures at the plant could lead to another leak.

LG Chem said on Friday there was no second leak at the plant, which makes polystyrene products used in manufacturing electric fan blades, cups and cutlery and containers for cosmetic products.

“LG Chem has asked the police to evacuate residents as a precautionary measure as there are concerns that tank temperatures would rise,” South Korea’s biggest petrochemical maker said in a statement. “We are taking necessary measures, including putting water into the tank.”

N. Surendra Anand, a fire officer in Visakhapatnam district, had said that more people were being evacuated because of renewed emissions from the plant: “the situation is tense.” Residents said police began moving them out of their homes and into waiting buses from around midnight.

Srijana Gummalla, commissioner of the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation, said gas emissions had been fluctuating through the day and had largely subsided.

LG Chem shares fell as much as 2.4 per cent in early trade on Friday, before regaining some ground to be down 0.6 per cent against the broader South Korea market’s one per cent gain. The stock lost nearly two per cent on Thursday (7).

India’s government has formed a committee, which includes senior bureaucrats, to investigate the leak, identified by authorities as coming from styrene, a principal raw material at the plant.

The factory was in the process of reopening after a weeks-long shutdown imposed by Indian authorities to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, local officials and the company said.