Loss due to the fire estimated at Rs. 70 crore

A fire that broke out in a warehouse in one of the five blocks of bulk drug manufacturing unit Glochem Industries Limited at the Jawaharlal Nehru Pharma City near Visakhapatnam on Thursday evening gutted the unit.

However, there were no casualties as the management evacuated all the 120 workers who were on duty at that time.

The loss is estimated to be at least Rs 70 crore as the fire, which began around 5:15 p.m., burnt down the entire unit, including raw material, finished product as well as the manufacturing facility, company’s general manager RA Kulkarni told The Hindu. “We will have to start afresh,” he added.

Four of the five blocks were reduced to ashes and the fifth block was burning and the fire was likely to continue into the night, police sources said. The sporadic breeze was fanning the flames.

Isolated unit

Firefighters who reached the spot with 12 fire engines from Pharma City, Visakhapatnam and Anakapalle found that the chemical fire could not be extinguished with water and had to wait for the flames with billowing black smoke to subside on its own.

Late in the night the firefighters started using foam and water to extinguish the remains of the fire, while the fifth unit continued to burn.

The unit is an isolated one located on a 5.3-acre plot on one of the corners of the Ramky-promoted JN Pharma City.

This ensured that the fire was contained and did not pose a threat to public safety, District Collector V Seshadri said. The Collector rushed to the spot accompanied by revenue officials and left after ensuring that there were no casualties. Joint Chief Inspector of Factories Chandrasekhar Varma, who reached the site earlier, said that they would probe the accident from all angles.

The police and ambulances continued to be on the standby at the site.

Villagers stage protest

Some of the drums storing chemicals exploded due to the heat. On hearing explosions and pungent smell, people from neighbouring Thanam village protested by squatting near Pharma City demanding closure of all polluting units.

AITUC leader Venkat Rao blamed the management for not initiating pollution control measures. He said the company was closed three months ago for not adhering to emission standards, but was re-opened by exerting pressure on the authorities.

Former sarpanch of Thanam Appa Rao said the authorities should take action against pharma units for their failure to stick to emission norms and not adopting fire safety measures. “People in the vicinity are living with a Damocles’ sword on their heads due to accidents at JNPC at regular intervals,” he remarked.

The mishap reflects the gross negligence of the regulatory authorities who are allowing such units to function without provisions for coping with such mishaps, environment activist Ratnam said.