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16 Killed in an Accident in State-Owned Steel Plant in India

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INDIACSR News Network

VISAKHAPATNAM: In the worst-ever accident in the history of state-owned Viskhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP), a plant of Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL), 16 workers, including some senior officers, were burnt alive following a huge explosion and fire in the recently commissioned oxygen plant in the steel melting shop III unit on 13 June 2012 (Wednesday) night. The Plant is located in the state of  Andhra Pradesh, the southern part of India.

At the time of the accident, 31 workers, including DGM-level rank officers, were in the shift. Security sources said the mishap occured at 8.45pm. Though the Steel Plant management has not made any official announcement about the accident. The steel plant management were not available for comment even a couple of hours after the accident.

About 20 workers were injured. The explosion occurred when the officials were conducting a trial run of the oxygen plant. Most of those killed on Wednesday night were contract workers.

This is the worst accident ever since the steel plant has been established, say workers. Workers are alleging that it is due to the negligence of the management with regard to safety measures, that the accident had occurred. There is tension in the plant premises as hundreds of relatives of the dead and injured came rushing to the plant. Union leaders and blaming the management for the mishap and demanding compensation to the next of kin of the deceased and the injured. “There is no supervision of safety or quality in the expansion works,” he alleged.

DRS Chaudhary, IAS, Secretary, Ministry of Steel on 10 May 2012 inaugurated the Caster Shop in New Steel Melt Shop (SMS 2) and Air Separation Unit (ASU 4) as part of 6.3 Mtpa capacity of RINLVisakhapatnam Steel Plant costing around Rs 12,500 Crores. The two facilities were built at a cost of around Rs 800 crores.

Sources say that the death toll is likely to go up as nobody knows as to how many workers stayed close to the oxygen plant at the time of the mishap. After the massive blast, a huge fire raged across the plant. All the workers and officials present in the oxygen plant were charred to death. The oxygen plant was completely gutted as huge flames swept through the unit. The injured suffered 80-90% burns. The Seven Hills Hospital was filled with the cries of the injured workers screaming in agony.

Gajuwaka MLA Venkataramaiah confirmed that 16 workers had died in the mishap. Trade union leaders allege that maintenance works in the plant have been neglected for well over a year.

The trade unions and the workers were searching for the bodies at the accident spot while fire fighters were trying to control the fire. Raju, an eye witness, said 10 bodies have been taken out from the charred remains of the gutted plant.

In the process of steel making, the hot metal is released from the blast furnace (BF), which is then sent to the mixer in the SMS wing to convert the hot metal into blooms. Each SMS wing has an oxygen house or plant. On Wednesday night, the oxygen plant exploded when pressure increased in the pipeline. The machinery in the newly-built SMS wing was erected by a German company, which has not provided expertise or any proper instructional methods to the steel plant, union leader Adinarayana alleged.

Over the last four years, work has been on to increase the capacity of the plant. The last accident took place a month ago in which two workers were killed. In fact, this was fourth accident in the last four months.

Viskhapatnam Steel Plant Mishap
May 22, 2012: A conveyor belt carrying raw material to new blast furnace completely melted at the sinter plant after it caught fire. Production loss Rs 1 crore.

May 1, 2012: Two contract labourers burnt alive and another two sustained serious burns following a blast in the newly- commissioned blast furnace III.

Feb 6, 2012: Huge quantity of spillage of hot metal in the steel melting shop (SMS), loss Rs 1 crore

April 10, 2011: Major fire broke out in SMS due to liquid steel fall from the ladle carrying out about 140 tonnes, loss Rs 60 crore

April 14, 2011: Huge quantity of hot metal spillage in continuous casting department of SMS, 140 tonnes of liquid still fell on the ground

April 17, 2011: Major fire in the raw material handling plant, causing damage to the three conveyor belts, loss Rs 20 crore

May 1, 2011: 48-hour production disruption due to twisting of a conveyor belt that transports raw material to blast furnace

June 18, 2011: Fire erupted when hot coke fell on one of the two conveyor belts in the coke drying cooling plant, loss Rs 15 lakh

(INDIACSR/Economic Times/PTI)

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