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Andhra gas tragedy: Favourable court order helps 3 LG Chem personnel 'flee' India

By Our Representative
Three South Korean LG Chem personnel, whose passports were confiscated due to their importance in the investigation of the company’s deadly styrene gas release, have "fled" India after getting a favourable court judgement. Bringing this to light, the Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV), an international NGO network, said, this would "help" the company to “avoid responsibility” as has happened in other cases, including Bhopal.
Korean personnel fled India following a critical report by India’s National Green Tribunal and just before an investigative report emerges from the Andhra Pradesh government, which objected to calling the tragedy an accident noting that, “We all know it was not an accident. The styrene leak was a result of a series of safety failures.”
LG Chem sent the Korean team to Visakhapatnam in mid-May to investigate the cause of the styrene release and support “responsible rehabilitation.” Said an ANROEV statement, “In contrast, LG has pursued a vigorous effort to avoid investigation of its safety failures and to evade any payment of compensation for the tragedy that it caused.”
Providing details of how LG has behaved following the deadly styrene leak, which led to the death of 13 persons and injury to up to 400 people on May 7, ANROEV said, the company hired the former Attorney General of India to petition the Supreme Court in an effort to remove the National Green Tribunal from investigating the tragedy.
Following this, said ANROEV, it tried to stop disbursement of an interim fine of of Rs 50 crore (~US$6.6 million, ~₩8.1 billion) for compensation and restoration”, even as not responding to to questions from a state investigative committee more than a month after the tragedy.
Then, said ANROEV, “LG promoted a photo in Korean media and claimed that it displayed their hotline to address community concerns over the tragedy. Actually, the photo is not of a hotline operation, but ironically a National Green Tribunal investigation of LG. A local resident who called the claimed LG hotline phone numbers numerous times noted that no one answered.”
Not just this, “LG also claimed in Korean media to be disbursing food to local residents. However, the State government already was distributing food to migrant workers struggling with the Covid-19 lockdown. Community residents received food from the State-managed food supply, not LG.”
ANROEV added, “LG claimed that Suraksha Hospital would “take care of all residents’ health check-ups and future treatment.” However, the experience of community residents is that while the first visit was free, all subsequent treatment for LG’s styrene gas release had to be paid by the victims.”
South Korean LG Chem personnel were essentially invisible in the affected community and did not resolve any key community issues
“In summary”, contended ANROEV, “Korean LG personnel were essentially invisible in the affected community and did not resolve any key community issues. LG’s Korean personnel did not declare long-term measures to monitor the environmental and health impacts of their company’s pollution. Instead, they ran away from the country on a chartered flight as government investigations started closing in.”
Asking LG to “act more like a responsible corporate leader”, ANROEV said, “Absolute liability should be applied to both LG Chemical and LG Polymers, including accountability for deaths, injuries, crop damage, and environmental pollution, among others. Long-term health surveillance and support should be provided to the community and be paid for by the company.”
Insisting nsisted on “a thorough and impartial investigation of the tragedy and civil society and victims’ representatives should be part of the investigation and any settlement with the company”, the statement said, this is particularly necessary in view of the fact that “LG Polymers uses styrene to make polystyrene plastic components for LG appliances sold in India”, a chemical which is “a probable human carcinogen, crosses the placenta and has a variety of harmful effects.”
“Styrene is explosive and must be stored at low temperatures. However, LG failed to maintain the storage temperature below 20C during a Covid-19 lockdown period, leading to the harmful release”, it added.

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