As many as 13 people including a child have died and more than 1000 persons in five surrounding villages, in a three km radius, have been reported sick following a gas leak from a chemical plant of a multinational firm in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam.

At least five of the deceased died while trying to escape from the deadly fumes.

The gas identified as styrene has, however, been neutralised.

The incident took place at the plant of LG Polymers India Pvt Ltd in Venkatapuram. The leak occurred at around 3:30 am today morning at the chemical plant, that was shut due to the countrywide lockdown.

Around 800 persons were initially rushed for treatment to various hospitals after complaining of breathing difficulties, and burning sensation in the eyes.

Panic struck in surrounding areas following a suspected gas leak in a chemical factory in the RR Venkatapuram village in Andhra Pradesh’s Vishakhapatnam. People were seen running helter-skelter. Eyewitness said that many people were lying unconscious on the ground.

Police, ambulances, and fire tenders were rushed to the area to assist in rescue operations. NDRF teams have been instructed to provide necessary relief measures. A total 27 persons are involved in the relief and rescue operation being conducted by National Disaster Response Force, who are experts in dealing with industrial leakage.

80 to 90 per cent evacuation of the area has been completed.

NDRF DG SN Pradhan told news agency ANI that about 1000-1500 people have been evacuated, of which more than 800 have been taken to hospitals.

The officials have advised the residents near the area to take precautions and wear wet cloth as mask to cover nose and mouth.

In the latest development, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Andhra Pradesh CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy regarding the situation in Visakhapatnam and assured all help and support.

Earlier in the day, PM Modi also spoke to officials of Ministry of Home Affairs and National Disaster Management Authority regarding the gas leak.

A meeting of the disaster management agency, NDMA has been called by the Prime Minister on the incident.

Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has enquired about the gas leak incident in Visakhapatnam and directed the district officials to take every possible step to save lives and bring the situation under control.

A statement from the CMO office said, “Due to a massive gas leak from LG Polymers plant in Venkatapuram created panic in the wee hours on Thursday, where many fell ill and being treated at King George Hospital.”

Meanwhile, President Ram Nath Kovind and several other leaders expressed shock over the incident.

President Kovind offered his condolences and tweeted: “Saddened by the news of gas leak in a plant near Visakhapatnam which has claimed several lives. My condolences to the families of the victims. I pray for the recovery of the injured and the safety of all.”

Home Minister Amit Shah terming the incident as “disturbing” said he has spoken to the NDMA officials and concerned authorities and is continuously and closely monitoring the situation.

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi also tweeted his condolences.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the news of the gas leak is “worrying” and added that the NDRF is working together with the state government in performing the first responder’s duty.

Andhra Pradesh Governor Biswa Bhusan Harichandan expressed shock over the Vizag incident and has ordered officials to take up rescue operations on war-footing. The Governor has suggested availing services of Red Cross volunteers in evacuation and also ordered the Visakhapatnam Red Cross unit to constitute medical camps.

BJP Chief JP Nadda said he was deeply pained to hear about the tragic gas leak.

Earlier in the day, Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation had requested citizens around the location not to come out of their houses for the sake of safety precautions.

The plant makes polystyrene, a versatile plastic used in fiberglass, rubber and latex and for making toys and appliances among other things. Set up in 1961 as Hindustan Polymers, the company was taken over by South Korea’s LG Chem and renamed LG Polymers India in 1997.

The incident has reminded many of the 1984 Bhopal Gas leak, one of the worst industrial disasters in history when gas leaked from a pesticide plant operated by Union Carbide killing around 3,500 people.