Sulfur dioxide gas that leaked from an acid plant in eastern Bihar state made 500 villagers ill, including 20 who were hospitalized Friday in serious condition, the United News of India reported.

The leak in Jhurkully village near Jamshedpur, about 620 miles east of New Delhi, was so intense that crops near the plant were also damaged, the news agency said. Cattle were also affected by the leak, which occurred Thursday.The cause of the leak was not immediately known.

Sulphur dioxide, a heavy, colorless, suffocating gas, is used as bleach, disinfectant or as preservative.

The victims, mostly women and children, complained of burning in their eyes and throat and had breathing difficulties, the agency said, quoting police.