British expert Ian Thorpe who is probing into the HPCL blast that claimed 17 lives is also not able to immediately put his finger on what caused the accident.

HPCL Executive Director V.V.R. Narasimham quoted Mr. Thorpe as saying it was difficult to determine the cause. “That was his preliminary reaction,” the Executive Director said at his daily press conference on the aftermath of the accident on Friday. Mr. Thorpe working at HPCL-Mittal Energy Limited, Bhatinda, has been flown in for an inquiry.

In spite of taking the best safety precautions during the last year the occurrence of the blast had been a setback to the refinery, Mr. Narasimham admitted.

After the blast last Friday at the cooling towers, 17 workers are still undergoing treatment for burn injuries in various city hospitals. One of the injured, C.B. Mahanta, was discharged from Lazarus Hospital during the day. The condition of those air-lifted to National Burns Centre in Mumbai is stable.

Mr. Narasimham said Mr. Thorpe would be here for a week to make a review and then submit his report. The high-power five-member committee headed by Hirak Dutta from Oil Industry Safety Directorate would submit its report to the ministry in the first week of September. Simultaneously, Executive Director (Health, Safety and Environment) Dinesh Deshpande from HPCL headquarters is carrying out an internal inquiry.

Cheque given

Mr. Narasimham said a cheque for Rs.20 lakh was handed over to the kin of Y.V. Satya Rao who died on Thursday afternoon. With this a total of Rs.3.4 crore of compensation was paid to the 17 contract workers who died. Ad hoc compensation of Rs. 1 crore had already been paid to the spouse of HPCL employee Ch. Murali.

Those permanently disabled in the blast would be eligible for compensation of Rs.20 lakh, paid to those killed. Answering questions, he said workers were given safety counselling on dos and don’ts at the work spot whatever their educational qualifications.