PATNA: Six people were killed in a boiler explosion in a sugar mill in Bihar’s Gopalganj district and seven others were left badly injured late on Wednesday night, prompting the angry workers and the local people vandalise the mill premises and set afire the owner’s cars on Thursday.
The blast in the boiler of Sasa Musa Sugar Works Limited at Kochaikot occurred at about 11:30 pm when nearly 100 people were at work. The bodies of three people working close to the boiler were ripped apart in the blast, which was accompanied by a loud noise and reminded many of a similar blast last month at NTPC’s Unchahar power plant in Raebareli, Uttar Pradesh, in which 43 people had lost their lives.
While four workers died on the spot, two others died at the Sadar Hospital in Gopalganj. Three of the badly injured workers, who sustained more than 90 per cent burn injuries, were rushed to Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH), where their condition remains critical.
With many workers holding negligence by the mill management as the cause of the blast, the mill’s owner, Mahmood Ali, and his two sons were arrested. Ali, however, denied any negligence.
“Maintenance of machinery has been foremost among our practices here. There was no negligence. Only a probe can find out the real reason behind this mishap,” said the Kolkata-based Ali, who was present at the mill during the blast.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar condoled the deaths and announced ex gratia of `4 lakh for the kin of each dead person and `50,000 for each injured person. State industries secretary S Siddharth and labour resources department secretary Deepak Kumar flew to the plant site by helicopter from Patna and handed the cheques.
The mill owner also announced a compensation of `10 lakh for each dead worker and `5 lakh for each injured worker. Ali said one person from the family of each dead worker will be given a permanent job in the mill.
The mill workers and the local people accused mill management of hiding the bodies of workers in the debris, and vandalised the mill premises. They set afire several vehicles, including two cars of the mill owner, and also attacked an ambulance called to take the victims to the hospital.
Unconfirmed reports said a pipe of the dilapidated boiler had exploded a week ago and was repaired locally. District administration officials who visited the plant, which was set up in 1932, after the blast on Thursday cited overheating as a possible cause. “The blast in the boiler led to an explosion in another tank near it that contained freshly extracted, hot sugarcane juice,” said one official.
Bihar’s sugarcane development minister Khurshid Alam has ordered a detailed probe to ascertain the causes of the blast.