Updated: January 12, 2021 11:06:18 am
A massive explosion in a petrochemical factory claimed the lives of six labourers in Bijnor district Wednesday. Two workers were injured while one was reported missing.
An FIR was registered against Kuldeep Singh, the owner of the factory, and its unidentified manager under various charges including culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Both accused are absconding. Singh’s family announced a compensation of Rs 12 lakh for the kin of each of the deceased.
The factory, situated near Nagina Road, was built in an area of 6-8 acres. It mainly produced ethanol, which is mixed in petroleum products. Methane gas is one of the by-products of the production of ethanol and is later used as a fuel for the boilers in the factory. The methane was produced and stored inside a digester tank. Station House Officer (SHO) of City Kotwali police station, Bijendra Pal Rana, said that the factory, owned by Singh’s firm ‘Mohit Petrochemicals’, had not been operational for last two-and-half months. The labourers were doing maintenance work to restart the factory machinery when the explosion took place in the digester tank. The digester was placed on pillars at a height of around 30 feet. The blast took place when the labourers were doing welding work on the digester while there was highly inflammable methane gas inside the tank, he added.
“There was no fire in the factory and the deaths were caused by the impact of the explosion. All six bodies were recovered at a distance of around 30-40 metres from the tank. The explosion also caused cracks in the walls nearby. Police are searching for the missing worker,” the SHO said.
Bijnor SP Umesh Kumar Singh said, “Primary investigation has found that the workers were doing welding work on the digester from outside at around 8.05 am. They had not filled the digester with effluent, leaving empty space inside the tanker. Methane gas was then filled in the empty space and when it came in contact with the sparks caused by the welding machine, it caused an explosion. The digester was the size of a big tanker and its metal parts were scattered all around with high velocity.”
“There were 11 workers at the spot. Six of them, who were doing the welding, died on the spot. Two suffered minor injuries and were admitted in the district hospital. Two others who were standing at some distance did not sustain any injury. Another worker, who was present there, has not been traced yet. Teams are removing the debris and searching for him,” the SP added.
Police sources said as word spread, hundreds of local residents gathered at the factory and staged a sit-in.
“We have been told that the tank was leaking but the officials did not pay heed to a complaint submitted by the workers in this connection. An adequate police force has been deployed in and outside the factory as local residents are enraged,” Brijesh Singh, sub-divisional magistrate, Bijnor, told The Indian Express on phone.
The deceased were identified as Bal Govind (49), Ravi Kumar (25), Lokendra Kumar (35), Vikrant (40), Kamal Veer (35) and Chet Ram (25).
SHO Rana said the FIR was registered under IPC sections 285 (negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter), 287 (negligent conduct with respect to machinery), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder). Kuldeep, the owner, is a local resident and his family operates two-three other factories in the district, including a paper mill. Both accused are absconding, he added.
Apart from the compensation announced, Mohit Petrochemicals will also bear the education expenses for one of the children of each of the deceased, and provide job to one family member, the SP said.
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