CHENNAI, INDIA: 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 5 kilometre (3 mile) radius on Friday, 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, viewed by Reuters, 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 spokesperson in Seoul declined to comment on the police report.
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 earlier told Reuters 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% in early trade on Friday, before regaining some ground to be down 0.6% against the broader South Korea market’s 1% gain. The stock lost nearly 2% on Thursday.
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.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy said in a televised address on Thursday that the leak occurred because the styrene had been stored for a long period of time.
Graphic: Gas leak in Andhra Pradesh - here