5 killed, 10 injured in blast on ONGC ship at Cochin Shipyard

The bodies recovered have been identified as that of two firemen, two contract labourers and a supervisor. At least three people are reported to be trapped inside the ship and efforts are on to evacuate them.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2018 07:48 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times
Cochin shipyard,Kochi,Blast at Cochin shipyard
Cochin Shipyard in Kerala is engaged in shipbuilding and repairs the largest vessels in India, including those of the oil exploration companies, the Indian Navy, the Coast Guard, and merchant ships of the ONGC.(File Photo)

At least five people died and seven others were injured after a blast on board an under-repair drilling ship at the Cochin Shipyard in Kerala on Tuesday.

The explosion occurred in the water-tank of the ship Sagar Bhushan, owned by the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), and was triggered by a gas leak, said Madhu Nair, chairman and managing director of the shipyard. He also ruled out any foul play. The state-owned ONGC put the time of the blast at 9.15am.

“Ship repair is one of the most dangerous jobs and we do take enough safety procedures. Despite strong measures it is sad such a tragedy took place. It seems to be a freak accident and we don’t see sabotage angle in the mishap,” the CMD said. The cause of the explosion is being ascertained, ONGC added in a statement.

Union minister for road transport and shipping Nitin Gadkari directed the government-owned shipyard, the largest shipbuilding and maintenance facility in India, to constitute a high-level inquiry into the accident.

“Shocked by the unfortunate blast in the shipyard. I have spoken to the MD of the shipyard and asked him to provide all necessary medical support to victims and initiate an immediate inquiry,” Gadkari tweeted. Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan also expressed his condolences to the affected families.

Kochi police commissioner MP Dinesh said the fire was brought under control in an hour and most of workers died due to suffocation and burn injuries. Of the seven injured, two are reported to be in a critical condition, police added.

Officials said a major tragedy was averted because Tuesday was a holiday and a minimum number of employees were present when the accident took place. The drill ship was berthed at the shipyard since December 7 to undergo mandatory repairs.

“Loud noise indicates there was a gas consolidation. We have to find out how gas consolidation took place in the water tank,” Nair said in Kochi. He also announced Rs 10 lakh each to the deceased.

“We have been servicing this ship for more than two decades. While dealing with old ships we do take utmost precaution. It seems today was not our day,” the CMD said, adding that a detailed inquiry will bring out the exact cause.

He added that three high-level inquiries were on – one an internal probe by the shipyard, the second by the director general of shipping and the third by the local police.

By evening, all the deceased were identified. Two of them worked as firemen, two as contract labourers and one as a supervisor. Survivors said 20 workers were present on the ship when the accident took place. “Today was a holiday that is why a major tragedy was averted. Otherwise the toll would have been much higher,” said P Rajeevan, a worker, who suffered splinter injuries.

“There was a deafening sound and in the impact I was thrown out a few metres away. The incident took place while welding work was going on inside the tank and all the victims were trapped. They were taken out after breaking one side of the tank,” said Bineesh, another injured.

First Published: Feb 13, 2018 12:09 IST