Andhra Pradesh Police today filed a fresh case against state-run GAIL in connection with yesterday's blaze, apparently caused by leakage in its gas pipleline in East Godavari district, even as the death toll rose to 16 with a child succumbing to injuries.
Condition of six of the injured, who received around 80 per cent burns, remains critical, officials said.
"A baby girl undergoing treatment for severe burns died today at a private hospital in Kakinada. With this the toll in the incident has risen to 16," East Godavari District Superintendent of Police G Vijay Kumar told PTI.
A massive fire, triggered suspectedly after a tea vendor lit up a stove in the vicinity of the leaking pipeline running through residential areas of Nagaram village had left 15 dead and 20 injured early last morning.
Gigantic flames rose several metres up in the sky, scorching everything in a radius of about half a kilometre, including houses, vehicles and coconut trees.
Police have lodged a fresh case against public sector Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) in connection with the tragedy.
The case has been registered under sections 304A (causing death by negligence), 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 286 (negligent conduct with respect to explosive substance) of the Indian Penal Code, Vijay Kumar said.
The police had yesterday registered a case under section 174 CrPC (unnatural death).
A fresh case under more serious sections has been registered after examining eyewitnesses and recording statements of victims' relatives during preliminary investigation, he said.
Several villagers had alleged that they had complained about foul smell of gas emanating from the pipeline but no effort was made to plug the leak.
"We had yesterday registered a case under section 174 of CrPC(unnatural death) in connection with the incident. The villagers had alleged the gas leak had been reported in the past few days but no pipeline repairs were taken up (by the company). After initial investigation the sections have been altered," he said.
The 18-inch underground pipeline fed gas to Lanco's Kondapalli power plant near Vijaywada. The blast was so powerful that a huge crater was formed at the place from where gas was leaking.
A special team has been formed to carry out a detailed probe. "We are examining documents relating to the pipelines laid by GAIL whose officials will also be questioned," he said.
The villagers had alleged that the pipe was over two decades old and rusted.
The investigators are also ascertaining whether the PSU had taken necessary safety measures for the gas pipeline passing through a populated area.