The Centre on Thursday said the gas leak in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam city that left more than 10 people dead and scores sick is a chemical disaster, adding that a specialised National Disaster Response Force team will assess the situation, PTI reported.

SN Pradhan, director general of the National Disaster Response Force, said the situation was now under control at the site. “The overall situation is under control and I think overall we can say that it is about rehabilitation and treatment of affected people,” he added. “We will be at the incident site till it is required.”

However, Pradhan said around 25 people are in a critical condition due to the leakage. The gas leaked from the LG Polymers Plant at RR Venkatapuram near Naiduthota area between 2.30 am and 3 am and spread over a radius of about 3 km, affecting at least five villages. Hundreds were rushed to hospital from villages close to the plant.

“It is a chemical disaster; the response requires expertise on chemical side, on chemical management side, on medical side as well as on the evacuation side,” Kamal Kishore, member of the NDMA, said at a press conference in Delhi. “Prime Minister took stock of what across the board response should be.”

Kishore added that the gas that has leaked is styrene and the site of incident is about 20 km from Visakhapatnam. “It is toxic and injurious to human health,” he said. “So far what we know is that nearly 1,000 people were directly exposed living in close proximity to the plant where the leak took place.”

South Korean battery maker LG Chemical Ltd, the owner of the plant, in a statement said that the gas emitted in the leak can cause nausea and dizziness when inhaled, Reuters reported. It said it was seeking to ensure casualties received treatment quickly. The plant was suspended because of a nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak and was preparing to resume operations on Thursday, a spokesperson said.

Kishore said the Centre is flying in a specialised chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear team of the NDRF from Pune and they will extend all technical support to local authorities. “We are also mobilising specialised technical support to assist the medical practitioners in the area who may not have dealt with this kind of emergency,” he added.

All India Institute Of Medical Sciences Director Randeep Guleria, who also attended the briefing, said evacuated people are being treated and monitored closely. Door-to-door search is also being done by NDRF personnel to help unconscious and semi-conscious people living in nearby areas, he added.

The National Crisis Management Committee, headed by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, also met and designed specific steps that needed to be taken to ensure the safety of people who were affected and to manage the emergency on ground.

Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs 1 crore each to the kin of those killed in the styrene gas leak incident.

Thursday’s incident evoked memories when least 4,000 people were killed in the early hours of December 3, 1984, when 42 tonnes of toxic methyl isocyanate gas leaked from a plant owned by Union Carbide, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company, in Bhopal.