Indian police file complaint against chemical firm after deadly gas leak

Indian police have filed a lawsuit against a subsidiary of LG Chem for a toxic gas leak at its chemical plant in the south of the country, which killed 11 people and left almost a thousand others sick.

On Friday, one day after the first gas leak, authorities doubled the evacuation area around the Andhra Pradesh plant within a radius of 5 kilometers (3 miles). About 800 people were hospitalized.

A copy of the police complaint against management of LG Chem’s subsidiary LG Polymers, viewed by Reuters, cited several counts of negligence and manslaughter.

The report, which precedes a full police investigation and potential charges, refers to careless handling of toxic substances and injury and endangerment of public life due to negligence. Culpable homicide is classified as not murder.

A LG Chem spokesperson in Seoul declined to comment on the police report.

There was confusion as to whether Friday’s extended evacuation orders were triggered by a new leak, as reported by at least one local fire official, or by concerns that rising temperatures at the plant may cause another leak.

LG Chem said on Friday that there was no second leak at the factory, which makes polystyrene products used in the manufacture of electric fan blades, cups and cutlery and containers for cosmetics .

“LG Chem has asked the police to evacuate residents as a precaution because there is concern that the temperature of the tanks will rise,” said the largest petrochemical manufacturer in South Korea in a statement. “We are taking the necessary measures, in particular by putting water in the tank.”

“The situation is tense”

N. Surendra Anand, a firefighter in the Visakhapatnam district, had previously told Reuters that more people were being evacuated due to new emissions from the factory: “The situation is tense”. Residents said police started taking them out of their homes and boarding waiting buses around midnight.

Srijana Gummalla, commissioner of the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation, said that gas emissions had fluctuated during the day and had largely decreased.

LG Chem shares fell 2.4% at the start of the session Friday, before regaining ground to fall 0.6% against the 1% gain in the South Korean market. The title lost nearly 2% on Thursday.

The Indian government has formed a committee, which includes senior officials, to investigate the leak, which the authorities have identified as styrene, one of the plant’s main raw materials.

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

Andhra Pradesh chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy said in a televised speech Thursday that the leak occurred because the styrene had been stored for a long time.