Five labourers were killed and seven injured in an explosion caused by a gas leak at the Alang ship breaking yard in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat on Saturday.
The incident took place in the morning when the labourers were cutting the hull of a ship.
“There was gas leakage from inside the ship. The gas was of such intense pressure that it caused a blast. Two of them died on the spot and three others died on the way to the hospital. Seven others who sustained severe burns are being treated at the local district hospitals,” Manindar Pratap Singh Pawar, Superintendent of Police, Bhavnagar, told The Hindu .
The police have initiated a probe into whether the rules for cutting a ship had been violated. Mr. Pawar said only the “non-sensitive” areas of the ship are cut, whereas the sensitive ones, such as the gas and engine rooms and the fuel tank are not cut but opened. “Due permission has to be obtained from the authorities for cutting these parts. We will probe whether there was gross negligence and accordingly register an offence. We are awaiting an inspection report,” he said.
Alang — the largest ship breaking yard in the world — has an unfortunate history of workers falling prey to the hazardous conditions on the site.
However, Krashnadev Sarvaiya, an iron supplier at Alang, pointed out that Saturday’s incident was the first-of-its-kind.
“As per the rules of the Gujarat Maritime Board, the oil tanker of the ship has to be cleaned before it is cut, since Liquefied Petroleum Gas is used in the cutting procedure. In this case, the tank was not cleaned properly, causing the explosion. This is the first major incident of this nature,” he said.
Mr. Dev said it was the ship breaker’s responsibility to ensure that the tank was emptied out. The plot where the vessel was being broken belonged to ship breaker Jaisukhbhai Shah.