At least eight people were killed and nearly 1,000 suffered breathing difficulties and other reactions as chemical gas leaked from an industrial plant in southern India early Thursday.
The synthetic chemical styrene leaked from the LG Polymers plant in a city on India's Bay of Bengal coast while workers were preparing to restart the plant after the coronavirus lockdown was eased, Administrator Vinay Chand said.
A fire that broke out before the gas leak has been extinguished, and police said the gas leak was later stopped and the air had cleared.
Chand said several people fainted on the road and were rushed to a hospital.
Nearly 100 people are hospitalized in non-life-threatening condition, Police Commissioner R.K. Meena said.
The dead included an 8-year-old girl. Meena said one person died falling into a well while running away and another person died after he jumped from the second story of his house to escape. The others died in a hospital
South Korean company LG Chem operates the plant in Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh state. The company said it is cooperating with Indian authorities to help residents and employees.
“The gas leakage is now under control, but the leaked gas can cause nausea and dizziness, so we are investing every effort to ensure proper treatment is provided swiftly,” LG Chem said in a statement.
LG Chem is looking into what caused the leak of styrene monomer gas, which is used for producing plastic, but wouldn’t exactly know until Indian authorities complete their investigation, company official Song Chun-seob said.
It employs around 300 workers at the Vishakhapatnam plant, but Song said the victims mostly appeared to be local residents.
Nearly 1,000 people in an area of 3 kilometres (1.8 miles) complained of breathing difficulties and burning sensation in their eyes, Chand said.
Authorities deployed 25 ambulances to shift the sick to hospitals and others away from the accident site.
Meena said nearly 3,000 people were evacuated from a village near the plant.
Images from television showed people lying in the streets after they collapsed while trying to flee.
An eyewitness said there was a total panic as a mist-like gas enveloped the area. “People felt breathless in their homes and tried to run away. Darkness added to the confusion,” he told a television channel. His name wan’t given by the channel.
Srijana Gummala, the local municipal commissioner, said water was sprayed in the area to minimize the impact of the gas. “Through public address system, the people are being asked to use wet masks,” he said.
India imposed a strict, nationwide lockdown on March 25 to control the spread of coronavirus. Measures were eased on Monday, allowing neighborhood shops and manufacturing units to reopen to resume economic activity.
India has so far reported nearly 50,000 virus cases with 14,183 recovered and 1,694 deaths.
China declared the whole country now at low virus risk Thursday as its new cases fall to near zero and no new deaths have been reported from COVID-19 in more than three weeks.
The last place downgraded from high to low risk was Linkou county outside the city of Mudanjiang in the province of Heilongjiang that borders on Russia and where the most recent spike in cases had been reported.
Authorities shut an emergency field hospital in the region after the closing of the land border and strict social distancing measures appeared to have decreased new cases to zero.
China’s National Health Administration on Thursday reported just two new coronavirus cases, both of them brought from overseas, and said 295 people remained in hospital with COVID-19.
Another 884 people were under isolation and monitoring for being suspected cases or for having tested positive while showing no symptoms.
In total, China has reported 4,633 deaths among 82,885 cases of the virus that is believed to have originated in the central industrial city of Wuhan late last year before spreading worldwide.
The global death toll from the deadly coronavirus reached 258,306 as of Wednesday morning.
Although cases of new infection keep growing among the infected world population currently, 98 percent are in mild condition.
Of the currently infected 2,226,567 patients, 2,117,319 are in mild condition, which is 98 percent, Worldometer daily update shows.
Meanwhile, 49,248 infected patients of the currently infected patients are in serious condition, and their percentage is only two.
Since it was first reported in China in December last year, coronavirus has infected 3,726,797 people globally, the Worldometer data shows.
So far, 1,241,924 people have recovered from COVID-19.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus crisis a pandemic on March 11.
People wearing masks to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus walk past a man sleeping on a bench on 5th Avenue in Sunset Park, a Brooklyn neighborhood with one of the city's largest Mexican and Hispanic communities, in New York. AP Photo
Meanwhile, the USA has confirmed 72, 271 deaths and 1,237,633 cases while Spain reported 25,613 deaths and 250,561 cases till Wednesday.
The worst-hit European country Italy has recorded deaths 29,315 and 213,013 cases.
France, on the other hand, has reported 25,531 deaths and 170,551 cases. In the UK, authorities have reported 29,427 deaths among 194,990 confirmed cases.
The coronavirus COVID-19 is affecting 212 countries and territories around the world and two international conveyances.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has recorded 10,929 coronavirus cases and 183 deaths as of Tuesday.
The country reported its highest daily new coronavirus cases on Tuesday with the detection of 786 patients.
The Associated Press was honored Monday for its international photojournalism, awarded the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography as seen in gripping images of life in Indian-controlled Kashmir and being named a finalist in breaking news photography for coverage of violent protests in Haiti.
The feature photography achievement — the 54th Pulitzer won by AP — was awarded on the strength of photos taken in 2019 by Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand. They show scenes of protests, grief and prayer, and quiet moments when the violence can seem far away.
“This honor continues AP’s great tradition of award-winning photography,” said AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt. “Thanks to the team inside Kashmir, the world was able to witness a dramatic escalation of the long struggle over the region’s independence. Their work was important and superb.”
To capture the photos, the journalists regularly fleed both security forces and angry crowds — sometimes hiding in the homes of strangers — as they looked for ways to illustrate daily life.
Pulitzer Prize-winning AP photographers, from left, Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand. (AP Photo)
With phone lines and the internet shut down for weeks, the photographers worked creatively to get their images out to the world, including slipping through roadblocks to the airport to find strangers willing to carry memory cards containing the photos to fellow AP staffers waiting in New Delhi.
The images take us deep into the experience of Kashmiris living under near-totalitarian Indian rule: the influx of soldiers, the blackout of communication and information, and the banning of public gatherings.
“We are enormously proud of the work by Dar, Mukhtar and Channi. Their skill, bravery and ingenuity in the face of many obstacles gave the world vital and insightful glimpses into the extraordinary situation in Kashmir,” said AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Sally Buzbee. “Their commitment to telling this story is profound.”
AP was a finalist in the separate category of breaking news photography for its photojournalism in Haiti.
Photographers Dieu-Nalio Chery and Rebecca Blackwell documented public outrage and violent protests over government corruption, mismanagement and a steep economic decline at a time when the plight of Haitians was largely ignored by international media. Their photographs bear sharp, humane witness to the turmoil of a country on the edge of disintegration.
Chery was hit with bullet fragments in the jaw while covering violent clashes at Haiti’s parliament but kept taking pictures.
“All five of these photographers made remarkable, stunning images despite dangerous and challenging conditions, sometimes at great personal risk,” said AP Director of Photography David Ake. “Their dedication to getting up every morning and going out to tell the story is a testament to their tenacity. The result of their work is compelling photojournalism that grabbed the world’s attention."
All of the 2020 award winners are listed on the Pulitzer website.
This is AP’s 32nd Pulitzer Prize for photography and 54th overall. AP has earned more photography Pulitzers than any other news organization.
In recent months AP photographers have also been honored by World Press Photo, Overseas Press Club of America, Pictures of the Year International and the White House News Photographers Association.
The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting. Founded in 1846, AP today remains the most trusted source of fast, accurate, unbiased news in all formats and the essential provider of the technology and services vital to the news business. More than half the world’s population sees AP journalism every day. Online: www.ap.org
The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica won the Pulitzer Prize in public service Monday for illuminating the sparse policing of remote Alaska villages, as a delayed awards ceremony recognized writing, photos and — for the first time — audio reporting on topics ranging from climate change to the legacy of slavery.
The public service winners contacted 600 village, tribal and other local governments and traveled by plane, sled and snowmobile to reveal that a third of rural Alaska communities had no local police protection, among other findings.
The "riveting" series spurred legislative changes and an influx of spending, the judges noted in an announcement postponed several weeks and held online because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Anchorage Daily News Editor David Hulen said the series "called attention to some really serious problems in Alaska that have needed attention for a long time."
"There's more to be done," and the paper will keep pursuing the issue, he said in a phone interview.
The New York Times won the investigative reporting prize for an expose of predatory lending in the New York City taxi industry and also took the international reporting award for what the judges called "enthralling stories, reported at great risk," about Russian President Vladimir Putin's government.
The Times also was awarded the commentary prize for an essay that Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote as part of the paper's ambitious 1619 Project, which followed the throughlines of slavery in American life to this day.
Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet told the staff — in a virtual meeting — that this year's prizes were "particularly meaningful because they come as we are managing our lives under great difficulty even as we produce great journalism."
The Washington Post's work on global warming was recognized for explanatory reporting. The newspaper tracked nearly 170 years of temperature records to show that 10% of the planet's surface has already exceeded a rise of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial times, the threshold world leaders have agreed they'd try not to exceed.
While the country is now focused on the coronavirus, "another worldwide public-health crisis is upon us" as the world warms, Executive Editor Martin Baron said.
Monday's awards recognized reporting last year, before the virus sparked a pandemic.
In a development that recognized how podcasting has brought new attention to reporting aimed at listeners rather than readers or viewers, a first-ever award for audio reporting went to "This American Life," the Los Angeles Times and Vice News for "The Out Crowd," an examination of the Trump administration's "remain in Mexico" immigration policy.
In another prize for the Los Angeles Times, Christopher Knight won the criticism award for what the judges called "extraordinary community service by a critic" in examining a proposal to overhaul of the L.A. County Museum of Art.
The staff of The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky, took the breaking news reporting award for unpacking racial disparities and other issues in a spate of governor's pardons.
Two different projects won the national reporting award: ProPublica's look at deadly accidents in the U.S. Navy and The Seattle Times' examination of design flaws in the troubled Boeing 737 MAX jet.
ProPublica Managing Editor Robin Fields said its reporting "laid bare the avoidance of responsibility by the military's most senior leaders."
The local reporting award went to The Baltimore Sun for shedding light on a previously undisclosed financial relationship between the mayor and the public hospital system, which she helped oversee.
The New Yorker took the feature reporting prize for Ben Taub's piece on a detainee at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. New Yorker contributor Barry Blitt got the editorial cartooning award for work that "skewers the personalities and policies emanating from the Trump White House," as the judges saw it.
The Associated Press won the feature photography prize for images made during India's clampdown on Kashmir, where a sweeping curfew and shutdowns of phone and internet service added to the challenges of showing the world what was happening in the region.
AP photographers Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand snaked around roadblocks, sometimes took cover in strangers' homes and hid cameras in vegetable bags to capture images of protests, police and paramilitary action and daily life. Then they headed to an airport to persuade travelers to carry the photo files out with them and get them to the AP's office in New Delhi.
"These journalists' courage and compelling storytelling show the absolute best of what we do," AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee said.
Reuters won the breaking news photography award for its coverage of protests that shook Hong Kong. Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler said the photos "brilliantly captured the magnitude of the protests."
While big outlets and collaborations got plenty of recognition, the small Palestine Herald-Press, in East Texas, got a Pulitzer for Jeffery Gerritt's editorials on the deaths of jail inmates awaiting trial.
In the arts categories, Michael R. Jackson's musical "A Strange Loop" won the drama prize. And Colson Whitehead's "The Nickel Boys" won the fiction prize; he also won in 2017 for "The Underground Railroad."
The Pulitzer board also issued a special citation Monday to the trailblazing African American journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells, noting "her outstanding and courageous reporting" on lynchings.
Wells was a journalist and publisher in the late 1800s and later helped found civil rights and women's suffrage groups; she died in 1931. The board said the citation comes with a bequest of at least $50,000 in support of Wells' mission, with recipients to be announced.
The initial Pulitzer ceremony, which had been scheduled for April 20, was pushed to give Pulitzer Board members who were busy covering the pandemic more time to evaluate the finalists.
The Pulitzer Prizes in journalism were first awarded in 1917 and are considered the field's most prestigious honor in the U.S.