The Indian Air Force on Monday airlifted 8.3 tonnes of chemicals from Gujarat that could reduce the toxicity of the gas leaked from a storage tank at the LG Polymers plant in Vizag last week, the Defence Ministry said. The vapour leak from the plastic-manufacturing unit in the early hours of May 7 caused the death of 12 people besides leaving over 400 hospitalised.

The gas leak was eerily similar to 1984 Bhopal gas leak, however the Vizag gas leak had less toxic chemicals. The National Human Rights Commission also issued notices to the Centre and the Andhra Pradesh government over deaths and suffering of people due to gas leakage from LG Polymers chemical plant in Visakhapatnam district.

The human rights panel said in a statement, Right to life of the victims has been grossly violated. At a time when human lives across the country are at stake due to the spread of COVID-19 virus and everyone is forced to stay indoors, the gruesome tragedy has come as a bolt from the blue for the people.

“Two An-32 transport aircraft of IAF were deployed to airlift approximately 1.1 tonnes of Tertiary Butylcatechol and 7.2 tonnes of Polymerization Inhibitors and Green Retarders from Mundra, Gujarat to Vizag in Andhra Pradesh,” the ministry said in a statement.

The IAF also facilitated the movement of the two individuals, Director of Indian Institute of Petroleum from Delhi and a Styrene specialist from Mumbai, to Vizag as they were required to oversee the operations being undertaken to control the gas leak.

Vizag District Collector V Vinay Chand said that about 13,000 tonnes of Styrene from the LG Polymers plant is being sent back through a ship to the company’s headquarters in Seoul, South Korea.

India has been under a lockdown since March 25 to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 67,100 people and killed around 2,200 people till now in the country till now.

“Based on the request from the Industries and Commerce department of the Andhra Pradesh government, the IAF airlifted 8.3 T of essential chemicals required to effectively control the gas leak that occurred at Styrene Monomer Storage tank in LG Polymers at Vizag, Andhra Pradesh,” the ministry added.

The gas reportedly started leaking around 2:30 am on May 7, when the workers were preparing to reopen the plant today after it remained shut since the COVID-19 lockdown announced on March 25.