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A year after: Shadows of gory past continue to haunt
Even before the crack of dawn, vicious fumes seeped into their homes, choking them and leaving them gasping for breath
Visakhapatnam: Even before the crack of dawn, vicious fumes seeped into their homes, choking them and leaving them gasping for breath. As the toxic styrene monomer emanated from LG Polymers plant at Venkatapuram in Gopalapatnam on the fateful day -- May 7, 2020, it did claim a dozen lives and leave hundreds hospitalised.
Unaware of what's happening around, men and women ran away in the wee hours of the day, clutching their children close to them. Most of them lost consciousness only to regain it later. The traces of the styrene monomer gas continued to follow the residents of Venkatapuram, RR Venkatapuram, Nandamuri Nagar, SC/BC Colony, Kamparapalem and Padmanabha Nagar even after a month the incident occurred.
Apart from these colonies, Tailors Colony, Babuji Nagar, Venkatadri Nagar, Ajanta Park Colony, etc., suffered due to the gas leak.
A year later, though it is 'business as usual' for the residents of Venkatapuram and the neighbouring localities now, the shadows of the gory past continue to haunt them.
Speaking to The Hans India, 92nd ward corporator Behara Venkata Swarnalatha Sivadevi says, "A compensation of Rs 1 crore each to the kin of those killed, Rs 10 lakh each to those treated in the hospital on ventilator support and Rs 25,000 to those who underwent treatment were provided by the state government. Though a majority of the assurances made was met, there are certain facilities which are yet to be developed in the locality."
With the Andhra Pradesh High Court ordered seizure of the company, about 300 former employees of the plant and residents of Venkatapuram and neighbouring areas are now engaged in other jobs. However, some of them remained jobless.
Though the residents of the affected villages did receive the compensation from the government as promised, they do express their concern over some of the unfulfilled vows. "A permanent hospital and a school and proper road to the burial ground at Venkatapuram are yet to be facilitated. Though we do have a temporary health dispensary at our disposal, some of the main infrastructure like hospital and school are yet to be set up," says a resident of the neighbourhood, who is working in a private firm.
The locals say they continue to suffer from health issues. "Though we received cards to get our health examined once in every three months, the provision is yet to be facilitated to us," says another resident of Venkatapuram.
Ophthalmologist and in-charge of the health clinic at Venkatapuram Gargi Devi says that 15-20 patients visit the clinic every day. "Most of them arrive with general complaints such as fever, cold, joint pains, etc. However, people suffering with respiratory complaints appear to be less," she observes. In addition to the initial five villages that were identified as the most affected due to the gas leak, other villages too added to the list much later. However, the residents of these villages did not receive any such compensation.
When normal life replaces the gloomy days after a year, the residents of Venkatapuram say that certain issues need larger attention.