5 killed in blast on ONGC ship at Cochin Shipyard

| | Kochi

Five persons were killed in an explosion and fire on an ONGC drillship, Sagar Bhushan, during repair works at the Cochin shipyard Limited (CSL) in Kochi on Tuesday morning.

Four persons were admitted to a private hospital in Kochi with injuries and doctors said that the condition of one of them, who had suffered 45 percent burns, was serious. The shipyard announced an immediate assistance of Rs 10 lakh each to the families of those killed in the accident. It would also bear the expenses of the treatment of the injured.

According to the CSL, the explosion reportedly occurred in a front tank of the drillship, dry-docked at the shipyard for the past one month, during works for removing steel plates using gas cutters. Preliminary assumption was that the fire was triggered by a blast that could have occurred due to gas leakage during welding work.

“There would be no explosion without (leakage of) gas. What gas it was has to be ascertained through a detailed inquiry… We are doing our probe. The police will be holding their investigations,” said CSL chairman and managing director Madhu S Nair. An internal investigation is being held under the operations director of the shipyard.

Apart from this, the Department of Factories and Boilers and the Director General, Shipping will also hold inquiries into the incident. Nair said that the shipyard would examine whether there was any lapse in the security inspections carried out routinely. The Kochi Police have already initiated their investigation into the accident.

According to sources, KB Jayan of Thevara, a contract fire watchman who was killed in the accident, had sounded warning about gas but the blast took place before required measures could be initiated. The others killed were identified as MM Ramshad of Vypeen, Gevin Reji from Pathanamthitta, CS Unnikrishnan of Eroor and MV Kannan from Vyttila.

Two of the deceased were contract workers while three belonged to the fire safety wing of the shipyard, according to sources. Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan offered condolences to the families of those killed in the accident while the ONGC, owner of the drillship, said the cause of the blast was being ascertained.

Gadkari assessed the situation at the shipyard through a phone conversation with the CSL chief. A representative of Pon Radhakrishnan, Union Minister of State for Shipping, is expected to visit the shipyard. Chief Minister Pinarayi informed that instructions had been given for ensuring proper emergency medical care for the injured workers.

Kochi City Police Commissioner MP Dinesh who visited the shipyard said the deaths were caused by smoke inhalation due to the smoke that filled the tank area after the explosion. He said the fire was put out completely within some time. It has been alleged that there was a delay in informing the Government’s safety and security agencies about the accident.

There were 12 people at work on the ship when the explosion and fire occurred at around 9.15 am on Tuesday just before the workers were to take a short morning break. That the passage to the tank was narrow and smoke and fire filled the space instantly made it difficult for the workers to escape the accident, said sources.

According to Madhu Nair, ONGC’s 1987-built drillship Sagar Bhushan, the maintenance works of which were being carried out by the CSL for the past 25 years, had arrived at the shipyard for repair works on December 7 and it had been at the dry dock since January 12.



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