KOCHI: Tragedy struck the country’s premier ship-building and repairing company Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL), which has been having an accident-free run for more than two decades, on Tuesday morning - five people were killed and seven injured following an explosion in an under-repair vessel. All the dead are Keralites, four of them hailing from Ernakulam district. Six of the seven injured are from Kerala, with the other hailing from Uttar Pradesh.
The deceased are CSL senior fireman C S Unnikrishnan, 46, Chembenezhathu House, Eroor, Tripunithura; M S Ramshad, 22, Palliparambil House, Malippuram, Vypeen; CSL’s contract safety assistant Gevin Reji, 29, Charuvila Vadakkethil, Adoor; K B Jayan, 41, Kuruppassery Puthenveedu, Mammanjimukku, Kochi; and M V Kannan, 42, Madathil Parambil, Eroor. The explosion occurred at 9.15 am, shortly after a gas leak was reported near the AC compartment area of Sagar Bhushan, which is being repaired in drydock #1. The workers were involved in cutting and welding around the ship’s potable water tank.
Fire tenders and ambulances immediately rushed to the spot and though workers were evacuated, two of them got trapped inside and one of them could be rescued only by 11.20 am. Of the 12 people rushed to the nearby hospitals, five of them were declared ‘brought dead.’ The condition of one person, with over 45 per cent burns, is serious.
CSL CMD Madhu S Nair said gas entrapment could be the reason for the blast. “It may be oxygen or acetylene which is used for welding and cutting. A gas-free permit was taken in the morning. We’ve implemented detailed safety procedures. We’ll conduct a detailed investigation to ascertain the exact reason behind the explosion,” said Nair.
The CSL has constituted an inquiry panel headed by Operations Director Suresh Babu. “God’s grace wasn’t with us. It’s a sad day and incidents like these shake us. We’ll support the families of the deceased and injured,” said Madhu Nair. He said the CSL received a phone call informing about the gas leak. “Immediate instruction was given to stop all hot works. By then, the explosion had occurred in the ship’s forward area near to the AC plant.
Immediately, fire tenders and ambulance were rushed to the ship,” said Nair. The police as well as Fire and Rescue Service personnel carried out rescue operations. Kochi Range IG Vijay Sakhare and City Police Commissioner M P Dinesh visited the spot. Dinesh said an FIR had been lodged and Assistant Commissioner of Police (Thrikkakara) P P Shams would conduct an investigation. Sreeroop P T, of Uppukandam, Kochi; CSL machinist T Abhilash and fire watchman Jaison Varghesse are undergoing treatment at the Medical Trust Hospital here.
Hospital authorities said the condition of Sreeroop, who sustained 45 pc burn injuries, is highly critical while the others are stable. CSL machinist Sanju Joseph, a native of Kallara, Kottayam; workers Rajan Ram, a UP native, Tintu K K , of Kongarappilly, Kochi and P X Christin, from Mulavukadu, Kochi were discharged from the hospital.
Despite Tuesday being a holiday, several workers were in the area where the blast occurred. Sagar Bhushan, which had arrived at the CSL on December 7 last year, was drydocked on January 12 and was to be undocked on February 28. The work was scheduled to be completed on April 7, according to the CSL officers.