At least six people died and 34 were injured from a gas leak at the Bhilai Steel Plant in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh on Thursday.
Around 6:30 p.m. local time (9 a.m. EDT), a gas leak was reported from a water pump at the plant followed by a blast after officials and firefighters reached the location, local media reported, citing sources. At the time of the leak, maintenance work was underway inside the steel plant, the reports added.
However, Vijay Mehra, the chief communication officer at the Bhilai Steel Plant, denied that a blast had occurred, and said: “Six have died, 23 have been admitted to hospital… There was no blast, only gas leakage,” according to The Indian Express, a local newspaper.
Victims of what is being called “the biggest industrial accident” in India in recent years included two deputy general managers, a master technician and a senior operator, Mehra told local media.
All the injured people, including Central Industrial Security Force personnel, workers and other plant officials have been taken to the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital in Bhilai, while those with serious injuries have been admitted to an intensive care unit, reports said, citing a police official.
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“We are deeply pained to learn that six employees have lost their lives,” Steel Authority of India Limited (NSE:SAIL), one of India's largest state-owned steel-production companies, reportedly said in a statement on Thursday night.
This is not the first such incident at the Bhilai Steel Plant, which has won the Prime Minister’s Trophy for best integrated steel plant in India, 11 times. Similar accidents at the plant in 2011 and 2012 claimed one life each while another lethal disaster killed five people at the plant in 2013, The Indian Express reported.
“Plant management is providing all the possible care and support and efforts are on for an early liquidation from the breakdown. High level enquiry shall be conducted to ascertain the cause of the breakdown and management will extend all the support to the affected persons,” an official statement reportedly said, according to NDTV, a local media house.