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Thursday, May 7, 2020

gas leak tragedy in Visakhapatnam

For the past few decades, Andhra Pradesh politics has revolved around YSR and Telegu desam.  Yeduguri Sandinti Jaganmohan Reddy  is the 17th and current Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. He is the leader of YSR Congress Party, and was Leader of opposition in the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly earlier.  He is the son of the former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy.  Nara Chandrababu Naidu was the CM from  2014 to 2019 and earlier 1995 to 2004.

The Andhra Pradesh government on Tuesday drew flak after it decided to rope in teachers from government schools as volunteers to control the crowd at liquor stores in Visakhapatnam. On the second day after reopening liquor stores, the city saw long queues where physical distancing was not being properly maintained. With policemen and volunteers unable to control the swelling crowds on their own, teachers were roped in by the State government. Officials said that the teachers distributed tokens to those who lined up to buy alcohol and helped in managing the crowd. Speaking to reporters in some places, the teachers said that they received oral orders from the District Educational Officer (DEO) to report to their nearest police station, from where they were allotted a wine shop to do crowd management.  What a degeneration, the noble teaching community roped in to distribute tokens to tipplers !

American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), known as  hazel pine  is a deciduous tree in the genus Liquidambar native to warm temperate areas of eastern North America and tropical montane regions of Mexico and Central America. Sweet gum is one of the main valuable forest trees in the southeastern United States, and is a popular ornamental tree in temperate climates. It is recognizable by the combination of its five-pointed star-shaped leaves and its hard, spiked fruits.

In 1839, the German apothecary Eduard Simon isolated a volatile liquid from the resin (called storax) of the American sweetgum tree.  He also noticed that when styrol was exposed to air, light, or heat, it gradually transformed into a hard, rubber-like substance, which he called "styrol oxide".

A major gas leak in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam has led to at least eight deaths and hundreds of people being hospitalised today  morning. Visuals show scores of individuals on the ground after having fainted on the  spot following suspected exposure. While there is no confirmation what the gas was, officials say that preliminary reports show that it was styrene or vinyl benzene. Other reports say that it could have been vinyl chloride.  Visuals from the outskirts of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh showed scores of people lying unconscious on the streets after inhaling the gas from a leakage, which is believed to have been caused by an accident in a styrene gas chamber at the LG Polymer chemical unit on the outskirts of Vizag city. 

Styrene, also known as ethenylbenzene, vinylbenzene, and phenylethene, is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5CH=CH2. This derivative of benzene is a colorless oily liquid although aged samples can appear yellowish. The compound evaporates easily and has a sweet smell, although high concentrations have a less pleasant odor. Styrene is the precursor to polystyrene and several copolymers.

"The leakage was found to be styrene, a compound which had "become air" (evaporated) and leaked," GVMC Commissioner Srijana Gummalla told TNM. Styrene is primarily used in the production of polystyrene plastics, fibreglass, rubber, and latex. While officials have stated that short-term exposure to the gas itself isn’t fatal, acute exposure to concentrated forms of the gas can have toxic effects, particularly on young children.

The gas created is colourless, pure forms of it can range from being odourless to having a mild sweet odour, while manufactured forms are said to have a sharp odour. It can harm the central nervous system in a human body. The Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) has noted that even short-term exposure to a concentrated form of the gas can potentially be fatal for young children. While the gas is not fatal on acute exposure, short-term exposure to the gas can cause eye irritation, gastrointestinal effects (such as stomach upset) and can cause irritation of the epithelial lining in various tissues.

The gas leak occurred at the LG Polymers chemical plant in the city’s RR Venkatapuram in the early hours of Thursday at around 2 am. It quickly spread to the neighbouring areas and reached almost upto 4 kms from the plant. Around 500 people are being shifted to King George Hospital in Visakhapatnam for further treatment.

The night of Dec 2, 1984 would ever  rankle as the black day in the annals of Indian history.  Over 3000 died that night itself ; nearly 12000 died subsequently [the exact numbers of affected would remain a mystery!] and thousands maimed  due to diseases induced by methyl-isocyanate that tank 610  of Union Carbide spewed out some 27 tonnes of a poisonous asphyxiating gas from. Thousands of animals died too.   The plant installed in 1969 was to produce a cheap pesticide ‘sevin’ which ironically killed human lives. More than 3 decades & a half, since that night of terror and death in Bhopal, which saw a cloud of deadly gases explode out of a faulty tank in a pesticide factory and silently spread into the homes of sleeping people – there are still people affected by the world’s worst industrial disaster ever.  Many who breathed the highly toxic cocktail that night suffered a horrible death with multiple organ failure. Those who survived have suffered multiple diseases in the decades that were to come.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
pics from twitter 

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