Vizag blast toll mounts to 11; eight including GM critical

The death toll in the explosion at the state-owned steel plant here on Thursday mounted to 10 while the condition of nine others, including senior company officials, is critical.

Updated: Jun 15, 2012, 00:11 AM IST

Visakhapatnam : The Andhra Pradesh government today ordered an inquiry in the explosion at the state-owned steel plant here which claimed 11 lives and left eight others critically injured including GM V Kalsi.

The explosion occurred at the oxygen control unit near the Steel Melting Shop-II at the plant of Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL) last night.

Expressing anguish over the incident, Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy directed the authorities concerned to conduct an inquiry under the Factories Act and submit a report immediately.

The joint chief inspector of factories will conduct the inquiry while the Director of Factories will also take stock of the situation, according to Information and Public Relations Commissioner R V Chandravadan.

"A committee is also being constituted to examine and probe the incident which resulted in the death of 11 persons and left eight injured," the Commissioner said.

Speaking to agencies after visiting the blast site, District Collector Lav Agarwal said the condition of some of the injured, who received 90 per cent burns in the blaze caused after the explosion is, critical.

Among the critically injured are Visakhapatnam Steel Plant General Manager (Projects) D Kalsi, Assistant General Managers LAS Rao, Ranjan Bhattacharya and MBRS Sarma, Senior Manager K Srinivasa Rao and three foremen who are battling for life at a corporate hospital here.

"The work was in progress at oxygen limiting well located in a concrete building where six employees of the plant were engaged for the job. They all were killed at the spot due to the blast and huge fire that occurred," a CISF official said.

"Eleven employees outside, including V Kalsi (GM Project), sustained serious injuries and they were immediately shifted to hospital by a CISF quick reaction team and the fire wing personnel," the official said.

The official said the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which guards the installation, was earlier asked by Kalsi to be present at the spot as they could be needed in case of any emergency like fire or other related disaster.

"Because the CISF team was on the spot many lives were saved as they were taken away for quick medical aid. The bodies have been badly burnt and efforts are being made to identify them," the official said.

A technical problem at the unit was suspected to be the cause of the mishap. Sources said the explosion could have been caused due to abnormal build up of pressure in the unit.

When asked about the cause of the incident, the Collector said it will be known only after an inquiry is completed.

"It is natural to have an inquiry into major incidents like these," he said without elaborating.

According to steel plant sources, a heavy pressure build-up at Oxygen Control Unit might have caused the blast as the gas from the newly-commissioned converter backfired setting off a reaction.

The Chief Minister is visiting Visakhapatnam this evening to meet those injured in the blast.

Leader of Opposition and Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu too expressed grief over the accident and will be visiting the port city to meet those injured.

Meanwhile, Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma said here this evening that a high-level committee would conduct inquiry into the explosion.

Verma addressed a press conference with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy at the Visakhapatnam airport after visiting the accident site and the hospital.

He said the committee, headed by former SAIL chairman S R Jain, will have Chairman Mecon K K Mehrotra, and Heads of the Department of Mechanical Engineering of IIT Delhi and Kanpur as its members.

Verma also said that a safety audit would be carried out to examine all the safety aspects and to suggest corrective measures.

Apart from the normal compensation of around Rs 20 to 30 lakh as per the company rules, additional ex-gratia amount of Rs 20 lakh would be paid to the victims.