MUMBAI: At least 43 people are feared to have been injured in a fire that broke out at the hydrocracker unit of the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (BPCL) refinery at Mahul near the eastern suburb of Chembur in Mumbai on Wednesday afternoon.
"We have shut the hydrocracker and assessment will be done on Thursday to know how long we need to keep it shut," R. Ramachandran, head of the refineries said while stressing that the reasons for the blast and fire can be known only after the investigations tomorrow.
Of the 43 injured in the initial blast and consequent fire, 22 have been allowed to go home after preliminary treatment at BPCL health centre, 21 have been shifted to Inlax hospital in Chembur. One of the injured workers is said to be critical and has been admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), police have said.
According to Nisar Sheikh (28) a contractual labor at the plant where the blast and fire occurred, there were over 200 workers working in the area when the blast occurred just around 3 pm. "The CISF security guards immediately threw open all the gates and all the labors were instructed to evacuate the premises," he said.
Pradeep Pawar, a resident of Mahul village adjacent to the BPCL plant, said that while he was working inside his home, he heard a massive blast at around 3 pm. "I felt the blow of the blast even as I heard a loud thump. I could feel tremors in my house. I came to see what has happened as saw people running here and there. All of them appeared tribally frightened. This is our life. We live here in the shadow of death," Pawar said.
According to fire brigade sources, the call was received at around 3.03 pm, the fire was categorized to be of 'grade 3' and nine fire engines were pressed in the service. The firefighting operations were on till the time of going to the press. Fire and blast in Hydrocarbon plant containing 72-ton hydrocarbon used for diesel generation in cracking vacuum gas oil and hydrocarbon unit caused damage to nearby plants also. Hence, all plants had to be depressurized and shut down for safety reasons.
Tremendous heat and buildup pressure compelled the fire brigade to conduct firefighting operations from a safe distance and by using monitors, said chief fire officer Prabhakar Rahangadale. However, the fire is now well under control, he added.