Management remains tight-lipped; local residents see it as precursor to a larger mishap
A teenage worker was killed and four suffered severe burns when an explosion ripped through a crude oil storage tank of Phase III of the Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited in Bala area here on Tuesday morning.
Munna Kumar (19) from Bihar died on the spot. The condition of Raheem (22), a native of Bidar who suffered 100 per cent burns, is said to be critical. Pappu Mahto from West Bengal, Uday Kumar (26) from Bihar and Bheemanna (32) sustained injuries. Bheemanna is admitted to MRPL Hospital.
A close associate of Raheem told Deccan Herald that the incident had taken place around 11.55 am when they were working inside the tank.
“Grinding work (smoothening of the tank surface) was going on and some painting work was being done nearby. Suddenly, there was a huge blast inside the tank. Munna died on the spot and Raheem sustained third degree burns. They were rushed to a nearby hospital and later taken to Mangalore for further treatment,” he said.
Residents said they heard a deafening sound near the cargo gate, about 1.5 km from the spot, and a pungent smell hung in the air.
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A R Jhelki, in charge of the work site, denied there was a blast at the work site. He said the accident occurred after a spark from the grinding machine fell on paint spilled on the floor. It caught fire instantly, engulfing two and injuring two, he said.
Surprisingly, MRPL officials said nothing about an injured Bheemanna. A few workers later hesitantly informed Deccan Herald that five workers, not four, were injured in the mishap.
The workers have been working in Mangalore under Offshore Construction Company since the last one and half years.
Meanwhile, the MRPL management has remained tight-lipped about the entire episode which the local residents see as a precursor to a possible larger mishap.
Calling it a “consequence of breakdown in safety”, a resident said Tuesday’s blast was the third in Phase III of MRPL in the last two-three months.
“The principal employer (MRPL) is in a hurry to commission Phase III. These incidents are to be blamed on laxity in safety,” said another resident. He said a water tank had recently collapsed at the contract labourer colony outside the refinery.
Award for safety
Ironically, MRPL had recently received an award for its safety measures.
The incident also sheds light on how gullible workers from backward districts in West Bengal and Bihar are brought to Mangalore as cheap labourers and made to work without any security.
Even in this case, neither the company nor the sub-contractor has any personal details of the victims. All they know is their names and the state they come from. The workers are not given any identity cards.