Hyderabad: An explosion at state-owned steel maker Visakhapatnam Steel Plant on Wednesday night claimed 10 lives while nine people were critically injured. The blast occurred in the oxygen control unit at the newly commissioned steel melting shop (SMS) in the plant run by Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL).
“The blast took place due to abnormal build up of pressure in the oxygen control unit,” said an RINL official who did not want to be named over phone from Visakhapatnam. “The exact cause of the explosion needs to be investigated.”
The dead include five employees of state-owned RINL, three contract workers and one each from a consultant and contractor. The critically injured are currently “undergoing treatment,” said the RINL official.
The incident took place during a trial run at the newly installed oxygen control unit, which had been commissioned that day. Nearly 50 workers were on the spot when the blast took place, said the person.
“The plant is open and the production is going on as usual,” the RINL official said, without giving details on losses to the company due to the explosion.
RINL chairman and managing director A.P. Choudhary couldn’t be reached as he was travelling in the US on a private visit.
Workers gathered at the RINL entrance demanding compensation of Rs1 crore each for the dead and an overall review of safety aspects at the plant.
In May, two contract workers died in a mishap at the newly commissioned blast furnace in the company.
RINL posted sales of Rs14,457 crore for the year ended 31 March. It has expanded its capacity to 6.3 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) of liquid steel from the existing capacity of 3 MT with an estimated cost of Rs12,291 crore. The new blast furnace was commissioned on 24 April and is under stabilization.
RINL has also undertaken modernization and upgradation of its blast furnaces, which will increase hot metal production capacity by 1 MTPA, taking the total capacity to 7.3 MTPA. The units are likely to be commissioned progressively by 2014.
The government aims to raise Rs2,500 crore by divesting a 10% stake out of its 100% holding in RINL through an initial public offering (IPO).
“I don’t think the incident will have any significant impact on their upcoming IPO,” said Giriraj Daga, an analyst tracking steel at Mumbai-based brokerage house Nirmal Bang Equities Pvt. Ltd. “Investors go by the fundamentals of the company,” he said.