ANANTAPUR: Six workers died and two others are battling for life after reportedly inhaling poisonous gas that leaked from a rolling furnace at a private steel factory on the outskirts of Tadipatri in
Anantapur district on Thursday.
Official sources told TNIE that some time after 5 p.m. workers at the Gerdau Steel Plant, which is located four km from Tadipatri, felt a pungent smell emanating from the furnace and immediately ran out.
“Twenty workers are believed to be working at the plant at the time of the accident. It is suspected that carbon monoxide leaked inside the plant,” the sources said. Eight workers lost consciousness while trying to escape and collapsed there itself.
Tadipatri DSP K Vijay Kumar confirmed that of the eight workers, two had breathed their last while being rushed to the local Vaidya Vidhana Parishad Area Hospital. Four others died while undergoing treatment.
The condition of the two remaining workers is critical, Kumar said, adding that they have been shifted to the Anantapur Government Hospital for better treatment.
The plant belongs to the Brazilian steel giant Gerdau SA which is headquartered in Sao Paolo and is the 14th largest steelmaker in the world. Rescue personnel plugged the leakage soon after the accident, sources said. In a statement, Gerdau Steel Pvt Ltd said the accident had occurred in the evening at its Tadipatri Steel Plant but did not provide any details on its exact cause or even whether it was indeed a case of gas leak.
It said it had immediately provided medical assistance and that the workers were sent to a local hospital. Stating that it was assisting the families of the victims, it claimed to be cooperating with the local authorities and working to determine the cause of the accident. Operations at the unit have been suspended and will resume only after an extensive safety inspection, it said.
DSP Vijay Kumar, however, confirmed to TNIE that it was a case of gas leak but said the reason for the same was yet to be identified.
He also said the victims have been identified as K Manoj Kumar (24) and B Ranganath (21) of Tadipatri, SM Wasim Basha (26) and K Siva Maddileti (26) of Kadapa district, K Yugandhar (37) of Kadiri and G Guruvaiah (45) of Prakasam district.
District joint collector S Dilli Rao, Superintendent of Police GVG Ashok Kumar and senior police and revenue officials visited the plant and reviewed the situation. The police have registered a case and
are investigating. The Director of Factories is also likely to initiate an inquiry and officials would be visiting the plant on Friday, sources said.
The Anantapur Government Hospital remained tense with YSRC and Left leaders staging a protest demanding Rs 50 lakh compensation to the families of the deceased. Anantapur MP JC Diwakar Reddy,
meanwhile, announced financial assistance of Rs 1 lakh to the victims' families. Officially, no ex gratia has been announced either by the company or the government.
However, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu expressed grief over the death of six workers and directed the officials to extend best medical treatment to the injured.
Opposition leader YS Jagan Mohan Reddy also expressed shock over the loss of human life and conveyed his condolences to the bereaved family members. He demanded immediate medical aid to the injured.
IT Minister Lokesh tweeted his condolences saying, “Saddened to hear about the gas leak tragedy in Tadipatri of Anantapur district which reportedly claimed 6 lives. The injured have been rushed to a nearby hospital for medical care. We are monitoring the situation.”