Two workers engaged by a private company were burnt alive following a blast in the recently commissioned blast furnace-3 of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant on Tuesday.

Preliminary reports said the accident occurred at about 4.30 p.m. when an earth mover was deployed to remove slag which got stuck in the blast furnace. While inserting a steel rod to remove the slag through a hole, the slag accompanied by hot metal gushed out and fell on the machine.

Water lying below the earth moving equipment led to a blast, damaging the machine completely and killing contract workers — Suman Das, 35, operator and Santosh Das, 45, supervisor — on the spot, officials said. Other employees who were present at the spot ran away on hearing the deafening sound.

Furnace-3 was commissioned as part of the 6.3 million tonne expansion of VSP. A spokesman of Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited, the corporate entity of VSP, described the incident as unfortunate and said the exact reason for the accident was being ascertained.

Steel Plant Employees’ Union general secretary D. Adinarayana blamed negligence on the part of management for frequent accidents in the plant.

The deceased workers were working for Neha Construction Private Limited. Fire brigades were rushed to the spot to put out the fire.