Balco confirms 18 deaths, CITU fears over 100 deaths

New Delhi: Aluminium maker Balco on Thursday confirmed 18 deaths due to the collapse of its under construction chimney at its upcoming power plant in Korba in Chhattisgarh.

"As of now, there are 5 injured, who have been admitted to our Balco hospital, and loss of 18 human lives have been confirmed," Balco Chief Executive Officer Gunjan Gupta said in a statement here.

However, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) fears over 100 deaths in the accident and demanded action against Balco management and even voiced for "re-nationalisation" of the entity in which government holds 49 per cent stake.

The trade union also demanded compensation of Rs 15 lakh to the families of the deceased and jobs to the dependents. Balco has offered Rs 5 lakhs as compensation.

Balco chief that "all possible help" would be given to the affected families.

Korba District Collector Ashok Agarwal said that around 300 labourers were working on an under construction chimney of 1,200-MW upcoming power plant of aluminium producer Balco, which collapsed yesterday. The chimney was being constructed by Gannon Dunkerley & Co (GDCL).

"Continuous heavy rains and lightening at Korba in the past few days is understood to be a probable reason for this incidence, however, the exact reasons for this incident would be known only after the enquiry," Gupta added.

However, CITU blamed the collapse "to the use of inferior quality of construction material and non-adherence to the technological discipline.

"There is criminal negligence on the part of Sterlite (a Vedanta group firm, which controls Balco) as well as the construction company (GDCL) which resulted in such a massive loss of life.

"...This is a man-made tragedy caused by mis-management and indiscipline of Balco and Gannon Management. They deserve severe punishment," CITU General Secretary Mohammed Amin said in the statement.

Moreover, Gupta said the relief and rescue operations are in full swing with the involvement of the company and the government resources at the site of the accident.

Sterlite says rains, lightning caused accident

Sterlite Industries, a part of Vedanta Group, today said "excessive rains and lightning" may be a possible cause for the accident at Balco's under-construction power plant in Korba (Chhattisgarh), where at least 20 workers were killed.

"A probable reason for the incident appears to be the excessive rains and lightning at Korba," Sterlite Industries said in a statement to the National Stock Exchange.

"The exact cause for this will, however, be ascertained only after a detailed investigation is concluded," it further said.

Balco is a part of Vedanta Resources, a London listed metals and mining major with aluminium, copper and zinc operations in the UK, India and Australia.

CITU for nationalisation of BALCO

Holding the Sterlite Group responsible for the chimney collapse incident, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions today demanded that the BALCO should be nationalised again and asked the Centre to give compensation of Rs 15 lakh each to the kin of those killed in the accident.

The chimney collapsed due to the use of low quality construction materials and management of Sterlite group, which owns the BALCO, is responsible for that, General Secretary of CITU's Chhattisgarh unit B Sanyal said here.

As the central government owns 49 per cent shares of BALCO, it should take steps to nationalise the company in the wake of the accident, Sanyal said.

The mishap occurred in Korba district yesterday when the chimney at the under-construction thermal power plant of Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd caved in, killing 26 labourers on job and injuring several others.

BALCO has sanctioned Rs 5 lakh each to the kin of those killed in the accident.

Meanwhile, former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi asked for stringent action against those responsible for the mishap and demanded the compensation of Rs 25 lakh each to kin of the victims.

Advani expresses sympathy with victims

Leader of Opposition L K Advani today expressed sympathy to the kin of victims and those injured in the chimney collapse incident in Chhattisgarh and hoped that the state government would do its best for the affected.

"In this time of great sorrow, my heart goes out to all those families who have lost their beloved and bread-earners. My heartfelt sympathies to those who were injured in this unfortunate incident," Advani said in a statement.

Several workers people lost their lives and many were injured in the incident in which the chimney of an under-construction power plant of BALCO collapsed in Korba, Chhattisgarh.

"It is gratifying to note that the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh has deputed one of his senior Ministers to visit the site and oversee the rescue operations. I am sure the state government will do all its best in this hour of need," he said.

Bureau Report