An explosion in the forward area of a drillship owned by ONGC killed five people and injured seven others at the Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL), officials said on Tuesday. The drillship, Sagar Bhushan, was undergoing maintenance works at the shipyard at the time of the explosion.
An inquiry commission has been set up to probe the cause of the accident on the ship. The explosion occurred at around 9.15 am Tuesday, shortly after a gas leakage was reported near the AC compartment area of the ship. Fire tenders and ambulances were immediately rushed to the spot.
The blast took place when workers were involved in cutting and welding work around the potable water tank of the ship. Of the 12 people rushed to nearby hospitals, five of them succumbed to injuries while another person suffered 45 per cent burns.
“Since there was a loud noise, it is certain that there was some kind of gas entrapment. A gas-free permit was taken in the morning. We implement detailed safety procedures so an investigation will reveal whether standard operating procedures (SOP) were violated,” said Madhu S Nair, chairman and managing director, CSL. He added that an angle of sabotage can be ruled out.
The deceased have been identified as Unnikrishnan CS (senior fireman), Jayan KB (fire watchman), Gibin (safety assistant), Ramsheed (contract worker) and Kannan MV (contract worker). Sreeroop, who suffered 45% burns in the explosion, has been admitted to the Medical Trust hospital in the city.
“It’s a sad day for us here at the shipyard. An incident like this shakes the shipyard. We will support the families (of the deceased). Above our statutory obligations, Rs 10 lakh will be given to each family…we will take care of the expenses of the injured,” added Nair.
Top officials of the CSL said apart from an inquiry headed by Director (Operations) Suresh Babu, separate probes will be conducted by DG (Shipping) and DG (FNB).
The drillship had arrived at the CSL on last year for four months of extensive repairs. She was drydocked on January 12 and is set to be undocked later this month. The explosion occurred in a ‘localised area’ and therefore there is no major damage to the ship, CSL officials said.
Union Minister for Shipping, Nitin Gadkari and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan offered condolences to the families of the deceased.
In a tweet, Gadkari said, “Shocked by unfortunate blast at Cochin shipyard… My heartfelt condolences to bereaved families. I have spoken to MD, Cochin Shipyard n asked him to provide all necessary medical support to victims n to initiate immed inquiry with “help of concerned agencies (sic).”