Andhra Pradesh

15 killed, 18 injured in AP blaze after gas pipeline bursts

At least 15 people were charred to death and 18 suffered burns in a massive explosion in a GAIL-operated pipeline passing through Nagaram village in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. The victims include three women and three children. Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu cut short his visit to Delhi and reached the accident site accompanied by Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

Terrified villagers, who woke up to the deafening blast at around 5.30 a.m., scurried to safety from their houses near the pipeline. The blast occurred in the pipeline maintained by Gas Authority of India Limited carrying gas to the Lanco power station at Kondapalli near Vijayawada. Huge flames leapt from the damaged pipeline gutting scores of houses and shops. The police said the death toll could rise. Close to three dozen residents of Nagaram had suffered serious burns and were being treated at hospitals in Amalapuram, Rajahmundry and Kakinada.

According to eye witnesses, the leaking gas from the pipeline was noticed at midnight on Friday and it had enveloped the area by early morning. When Vaka Nageswara Rao, who runs a tea stall adjacent to the pipeline, lit his stove in the morning, the gas caught fire, triggering the massive explosion, they said. The trunk pipeline had been repaired just two days ago. The damage could have been much higher had the flames spread to nearby Tatipaka ONGC Refinery Station. The GAIL pipeline runs in front of the gas collection centre and the Tatipaka mini refinery of the ONGC.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an ex gratia of Rs. 2 lakh each to the families of the deceased. He instructed senior officials of the Petroleum Ministry to personally oversee the relief and rescue operations and suggest steps to ensure that such incidents did not recur.

Mr. Naidu who faced angry crowds at the accident site, ordered an inquiry into the incident and said officials found guilty of dereliction of duty would not be spared.

“We will take stringent action against all those found responsible once we get a detailed report from the high-level committee that is already on the job of enquiring into the incident.” The devastation spread up to one kilometre from the actual site of the leak and some of the bodies were charred beyond recognition. “We woke up to the flames and thought that it could be a fire accident. But the fire spread fast and we ran into the fields,” said 35-year-old Bonam Seetha Lakshmi, a resident of Nagaram.

Angry villagers damaged a few vehicles at the ONGC Gas Collection Station and expressed concern over safety since the pipeline had been laid through a residential area.

Pipes not faulty

Most GAIL pipelines in the area where the explosion took place are underground and well-maintained, a source at a petroleum operator in the area told The Hindu. He attributed the accident to the villagers’ carelessness.

Rs. 25 lakh for kin

An ex gratia of Rs. 25 lakh each will be given to the kin of the deceased. It includes Rs. 20 lakh from ONGC/ GAIL, Rs. 3 lakh from Andhra Pradesh govern-ment, and Rs. 2 lakh announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2020 2:51:37 AM |

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