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Evacuation area around India LG Chem plant widened after deadly gas leak

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Indian officials were evacuating more people on Friday from the area around a chemical plant in the south of the country that leaked toxic gas, killing at least 11 people and sickening hundreds more.

[CHENNAI, India] Indian officials were evacuating more people on Friday from the area around a chemical plant in the south of the country that leaked toxic gas, killing at least 11 people and sickening hundreds more.

There was confusion about whether the wider evacuation orders were sparked by a renewed leak at the LG Chem factory in Andhra Pradesh, or by the fear that rising temperatures at the plant could lead to another leak.

"The situation is tense," N. Surendra Anand, a fire officer in Visakhapatnam district, told Reuters, adding that people within a 5km radius were being moved out because of renewed emissions from the plant.

However, Seoul-based LG Chem said on Friday the decision to extend the evacuation area from 3.5km had been ordered as a precaution.

"There was not a second leak and 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."

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LG Chem shares fell as much as 2.4 per cent in early trade on Friday, before regaining some ground to be down 0.4 per cent against the wider South Korea market's 1.1 per cent gain. Its stocks lost nearly 2 per cent on Thursday.

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

Police began urging people to move out of their houses and into waiting buses at around midnight, said local resident Sheikh Salim, who lives about 2.5km from the plant.

LG Chem and federal authorities in New Delhi said on Thursday that the leak at the plant, which makes polystyrene products used in manufacturing electric fan blades, cups and cutlery and containers for cosmetic products, had been contained.

Gas from styrene, a principal raw material at the plant, leaked during the early hours of Thursday, authorities said.

The factory, operated by LG Polymers, a unit of LG Chem, was in the process of reopening after a weeks-long lockdown 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.

REUTERS

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