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GAIL pipeline blast in Andhra Pradesh kills 15

An explosion in a GAIL pipeline in Andhra Pradesh killed at least 15 people and injured 18 others. The explosion, which happened near Nagaram village in East Godavari district of the state at around 5 am, left a trail of destruction as fire gutted houses, vehicles and coconut orchards.

Nearly 50 houses were damaged in the mishap. The injured were shifted to different hospitals in the district. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who was in Delhi, and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan visited Nagaram and also the hospitals where the injured were being treated.

According to Press Trust of India, the government announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs 25 lakh for the kin of those who lost their lives. Pradhan also announced a Rs 5 lakh compensation for those permanently disabled and Rs 1 lakh for the injured.

UNSAFE MACHINERY?
Recent instances of industrial accidents
2013

  • Aug: Fire at HPCL’s Vizag refinery in Andhra Pradesh (at least 30 killed)
     
  • Nov: A ceiling collapse at an underground mine operated by Coal India Ltd in Jharkhand’s Dhanbad district (4 killed)

2014

  • Mar: Toxic gas leak at a dyeing unit of KPR Mills at State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu’s (Sipcot’s) Erode industrial estate, 400 km from Chennai (7 killed)
     
  • Jun 6: Ammonia gas leak from a cold storage unit of Nila Seafood, a private processing company in Tamil Nadu (54 people fall unconscious)
     
  • Jun 12: A poisonous gas leak at SAIL’s Bhilai Steel Plant in Chhattisgarh (6 killed, 36 injured)
     
  • Jun 20: Minor fire at HPCL-Mittal Energy’s Bathinda refinery (None injured)

Friday’s explosion was the second significant industrial accident in the country this month. On June 12, six people were killed in a gas leak at Steel Authority of India Ltd’s (SAIL’s) Bhilai Steel Plant in Chhattisgarh. An inquiry is on into this incident.

Nagaram’s villagers alleged GAIL had not taken action on their complaints of gas leaks. They said the pipelines, laid 15-20 years ago, had become defective. Pradhan has ordered an inquiry by a committee headed by a joint secretary and with representatives from Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, the Oil Industry Safety Directorate and the National Disaster Management Authority.

GAIL, which has 850 km of pipelines in Andhra Pradesh and supplies gas to 37 industrial units, including the Lanco Kondapalli power project near Vijayawada, resumed supply through an alternative pipeline.

A spokesperson for Lanco told Business Standard the operations were not affected at the plant because gas supply was not disrupted.      

Supply to the 1,466-Mw power station was restored within a few hours. GAIL supplies 0.7 million British thermal unit a day to the plant. GAIL procured natural gas in the region from Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Reliance Industries and Cairn Energy, said Rakesh Prasad, the company’s deputy general manager who is based in Rajahmundry. There are over a dozen gas-gathering stations in the area.

The Oil Industry Safety Directorate, under the petroleum ministry, carries out safety audits of oil & gas installations across the country.

In a press release, ONGC said there could be minor gas leaks in the trunk line, which, due to zero wind in the vicinity, got settled over the area. During the early hours, when someone lit stove for daily chores, the settled gas could have triggered fire amounting to explosion.

“This terminal was closed instantly, but it took 15 minutes for the gas source to cease. In the intervening time, the remaining gas in the pipeline caught fire and caused the burst of the GAIL’s trunk line.”

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