Around 15,000 villagers in the surrounding areas of LG Polymers India Ltd on the outskirts of Visakhapatnam will have to wait for some more days to return to their homes as the residential localities are yet to completely sanitised following the leakage of styrene gas that killed 12 people on Thursday, officials said on Sunday.
At a review meeting held by chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy on Sunday, the officials told him that though the styrene vapour residue in the ambient air in the area has come down to safe levels, experts were making an assessment of the situation in the five villages surrounding the plant.
State minister for industries Mekapati Gautam Reddy told Hindustan Times that the temperature levels in the styrene gas storage tank had come down to the normal level and even National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) representatives had endorsed it.
“However, there is an issue of contamination of food, drinking water and other essentials in the houses of these villagers because of the styrene gas impact. They have to be removed. Even clothes in their houses have to be thoroughly washed. We are yet to assess the contamination of ground water in these villages. So, it is always better to allow people only after ensuring that everything is safe and secure in the villages after getting green signals from the experts,” Reddy said.
The chief minister, too, directed the officials to see that the villagers were allowed only after taking proper sanitation and safety measures. “It requires a massive sanitation drive. A large number of animal carcasses have to be removed from the area and drains have to be cleaned, so that they would not pose further problems to the villagers,” the minister said.
Till such time, the evacuees have to stay put in their relief camps. “We cannot tell immediately as to how long they would have to stay there, but we hope to restore normalcy in the area in a couple of days,” Gautam Reddy said.
The minister said the anxiety of the evacuees to return to their villages was understandable, as they were worried about their belongings. “They all left homes unlocked and ran for their safety on the fateful day. And the police had to break open the doors of some other houses to bring out people who had fallen unconscious while they were asleep,” he said.
He said directions had been issued to the Visakhapatnam police authorities lock the houses which were deserted by the people and keep a vigil on the other houses whose doors were broken. “We shall ensure that their belongings are safe,” Reddy said.
Visakhapatnam district medical and health officer Tirumala Rao said 411 patients were undergoing treatment in various hospitals and many of them had completely recovered.
“We shall discharge them and send them back, only after getting clearance from the government,” he said.
The chief minister asked the officials to complete the distribution of compensation that he had announced for the bereaved families, the affected persons and the villagers who were evacuated from their homes on account of the disaster.