One person was killed and 15 others injured in a major explosion at a chemical factory in Jawaharlal Nehru Pharma City in Vishakapatnam’s Parawada mandal on late Monday night (July 13). The incident has intensified a sense of panic in and around the region as it is the third major industrial disaster in Visakhapatnam in less than three months and second disaster within the Pharma city in two weeks.
According to local media sources, the fire that broke out the Ramky Solvent unit in the Pharma City was so massive that the fire tenders took more than six hours to douse the flames, while residents in the nearby villages had left their houses in panic to move away to farther distances. Ramky Solvent is one of the 80 chemical units in the Pharma City, a joint venture by Ramky Group and Andhra Pradesh government.
Senior chemist K Srinivasa Rao of the unit died of the fire and 15 other workers in the unit were injured who are presently under treatment in the city’s King George Hospital. What caused the explosion is yet to be ascertained as the authorities are probing the incident. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, state police arrested tens of left parties’ leaders who had gone to visit the factory premises and the injured workers in the hospital.
God what’s happening to #Vishakapatnam. So much destruction. Prayers for safety 🙏 pic.twitter.com/PFl8xfxtzO
— Jogulamba (Jogu Prasad) (@JogulambaV) July 13, 2020
Earlier on June 29, hydrogen sulfide gas leaked from a reactor at a Sainor Life Sciences Pvt Ltd unit in the Pharma City that killed two workers and four others were severely injured from inhalation of the gas. A government committee that probed the incident found procedural lapses in the operation of the unit and that the mandatory safety systems are not in place.
Before that on May 7, 15 persons had died and over 500 people were injured from Styrene monomer gas leakage at LG Polymers factory in Visakhapatnam’s RR Venkatapuram. A state government appointed high power committee that probed the incident had revealed that multiple lapses of the management in operating the factory had caused the industrial disaster. Subsequently, the police on July 7 arrested the CEO, two directors and eight other officials of LG Polymers.
“It has become a routine for the government authorities to react to such disasters only when they occur and forget later,” said CH Narasinga Rao, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) state president. In order to prevent industrial disasters from recurring, he said,w the authorities must bring in permanent solutions such as regular inspections of safety systems at such units. Police arrested Narasinga Rao along with several others who went to meet the family members of the deceased.
In a statement, CITU stated that the trade unions have been demanding successive governments to ensure protection for workers in industries through numerous representations and protests but the requests have been sidelined, as a result of which Visakhapatnam had to face such a situation. “It is crucial for the government to wake up and bring in proper inspection and safety systems in industries and penalise the management who violate the safety norms,” stated the trade union.
“The right to life of the workers and the residents living around industrial areas is at stake,” said J V Satyanarayana Murthy, state Assistant Secretary of Communist Party of India (CPI). Murthy was also arrested along with ten others when he went to the Pharma City. He added that the concerned authorities who give safety clearances to industries without due diligence must be held responsible for such incidents.
The trade unions are demanding Rs 1 crore compensation for the deceased worker’s family.