As the Andhra Pradesh government ordered an inquiry into Wednesday nights explosion at the plant of the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL) which left at least 12 people dead,it emerged that senior officers,on learning that pressure was building alarmingly in an oxygen storage unit due to a malfunction,dropped whatever they were doing and rushed there without thinking about their own safety.
General Manager (Projects) D S Kalsi,Deputy GM (Construction) L Srihari,Deputy GM P V Karunakar and Senior Manager Ravi Chand,who had stationed themselves at different locations for a trial run at the newly-commissioned Steel Melting Shop 2,ran to the oxygen unit,seconds before the explosion.
Officials said Srihari was about to call it a day he had been at work since morning when the alarm was raised. He decided to go and check on the malfunctioning unit. Srihari,who had more than 20 years of work experience at the VSP,died in the explosion. So did Karunakar and Ravi Chand. Two employees of RINLs main contractor M N Dastur and Co,an employee of Blue Star,an engineer of Siemens and two trainees were also killed.
In RINLs 40-year history,never before have so many senior officers died in a mishap.
The condition of Kalsi,who suffered 98 per cent burns,is very critical. He is being rushed to Mumbai for treatment,said an official of the Seven Hills Hospital. Kalsi has been with the RINL for 25 years.
A pall of gloom has descended on the Seven Hills Hospital on the Waltair Main Road. Hundreds of employees are gathering to mourn the loss of life. Kalsis wife has been inconsolable she had a look at her husband,battling for life at the intensive care unit.
Relatives of Srihari and Karunakar looked too dazed and shocked as the bodies were handed over. By 5 pm,there was chaos as politicians made a beeline to the hospital.
How the mishap occurred
The Steel Melting Shop-2 was commissioned on Tuesday,June 12. The oxygen storage unit provides oxygen to Steel Melting Shop-2 which purifies the liquid metal. On Wednesday night,at 8.30 pm,the control room of the oxygen storage unit opened valves to let oxygen flow into Steel Melting Shop-2. However,the oxygen was not flowing steadily,resulting in build-up of high pressure in the 10 huge oxygen cylinders in the storage unit. Officials say that when there is a build-up of high pressure,safety valves should open automatically and balance the situation. However,the safety valves on one or more oxygen cylinders malfunctioned on Wednesday night. The personnel manning the oxygen control room desperately tried to release the oxygen build-up manually while informing the higher officers,including General Manager D S Kalsi who rushed there along with other officers. They were trying to fix the problem when the explosion occurred,according to the officials. The RINL has not made any official announcement so far. Vizag District Collector Luv Kumar Agarwal said an inquiry has been ordered.
In the past
April 10,2011: Fire due to liquid metal spill,injuries to workers
April 14,2011: Liquid metal spill in casting unit,injuries to workers
April 17,2011: A major fire gutted the raw material handling plant. Twelve persons were injured
June 18,2011: Fire on the conveyor belts halts production
February 6,2012: A massive fire in one of the steel melting shops,22 persons receive burns
May 1,2012: Two contract workers burnt alive in a blast in the new furnace
May 22,2012: Conveyor belt melts