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The High Court of Andhra Pradesh has taken suo moto cognizance of the incident of gas leak in Vishakhapatnam, in which a number of casualties have been reported. The High Court has directed the State to take all necessary steps to mitigate the loss that may be caused due to this incident.
In an incident that occurred on the intervening night of May 6 and May 7, styrene vapour from a chemical plant of LG Polymers India Private Ltd (LGPI), an arm of South Korea’s LG Chem, escaped from the plant. This leak that occurred in Visakhapatnam has thus far reportedly claimed 11 lives.
The figure of casualties stood at 8 when the matter was being heard by the High Court.
Styrene is notified as a dangerous substance under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act and its inhalation is dangerous to human life. As per the Chemical Accident (Emergency Planning, Preparedness, and Response) Rules of 1996, various crisis response steps ought to have been taken. These include formulation of Crisis alert system, central crisis group, state crisis group all the way down to local crisis group. In this regard, the Court said,
Storage, manufacture, and import of hazardous substances such as styrene call for some general responsibilities on the occupier of an industry and the Court said that whether these responsibilities were fulfilled or not is a matter of enquiry in the instant case. Whether the provisions of the law as regards permissions and clearances for industrial activity with hazardous chemicals was in place or not, also forms matter of enquiry but the same can be dealt with subsequently, the Court observed.
Medical treatment to the affected persons being the primary focus of the Court, the Court said that the persons living in the vicinity of the industry to be evacuated by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and local hospitals must also open up for treatment of the affected persons along with government hospitals.
The Court said that in addition to the medical treatment for the persons, adequate nutrition and food to the citizens particularly children and women forms a matter of concern for the Court.
The Court was informed that the NDRF teams deployed in Goa, Gauhati, Daman and Diu have been now sent towards Visakhapatnam by the Centre and certain directions have been issued by the Centre as regards the Do's and Don'ts and precautions that need to be followed by the State Government.
While acknowledging swift action by the Centre, the Court gave liberty to the State to request for more personnel from the reserved force should the NDRF teams not feel adequate for the present purpose including evacuation of people, shifting them for medical aids, provision of food and nutrition, among others.
The Court has directed the State Government to issue an order directing all private hospitals in Visakhapatnam to open for medical aid to the needy.
Government should also ensure that fire services from nearby areas are requisitioned for deployment in Visakhapatnam to ensure activity of sprinkling of water can be carried out to reduce the impact of the gas leak.
A Committee of officers not below the rank of Principal Secretaries must be appointed by the State government to monitor the activities and file compliance report within a week.
The entire action of Disaster Management Authority will be required to be supervised by the Chief Secretary of the State, the Court has clarified.
The Court has appointed Senior Counsel YV Ravi Prasad as Amicus Curiae in the case and directed the District Legal Services Authority to provide proper assistance through para legal volunteers.
The matter was heard by the Bench of Chief Justice Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari and Justice Lalitha Kanneganthi and the Court is to hear the matter next on May 20.