VASCO, APRIL 18
Three labourers were injured and 35 vehicles gutted, when a naphtha pipeline which was damaged burst into flames at Zuari Agro-Chemical Industry Limited (ZACIL), Zuarinagar-Sancoale, on Monday morning.
The fire broke out at the entrance gate of Zuari industry, damaging property worth crores of rupees. The fire that broke out at about 11.20 am was brought under control at 4 p.m.
The three injured persons are Ramakant Gaonkar (47) from Quepem, Savio D’Costa from Shiroda and Kailash Ram (38) from Bihar. They were rushed to GMC Hospital in Bambolim. Two of the injured were discharged later in the evening.
According to fire fighters and emergency service personnel, the incident
occurred when a negligent heavy earth mover driver damaged an underground naphtha pipeline while undertaking excavation work.
“It generated a spark, due to which traces in the naphtha pipeline burst into huge flames,” they informed.
Immediately, after the pipeline was damaged, a blast occurred and flames reached upto 40 ft high and engulfed the earth moving excavator machine, 23 two-wheelers, six cars, three trucks, one tempo and one phosphoric acid tank, which were parked at the entrance gate of the industry.
The JCB driver along with two labourers, who were standing nearby, sustained burn injuries and were rushed to a private hospital.
Luckily, a major tragedy was averted, as two ammonia storage tanks of the industry are located barely 50 metres away from the entrance gate, where the fire incident occurred.
The fire flames were seen right up till the MES College from NH-17B, which created panic among the people and residents of Zuarinagar.
The panic-stricken security guard at the gate who had witnessed the blast said that the flames which engulfed all the vehicles were very high.
Luckily, very few people were present at the time of blast, as only the JCB driver and two others had sustained burn injuries.
“Our emergency team and fire fighters acted swiftly and kept the fire under control. The injured labourers were rushed to a hospital,” informed ZACIL Chief Financial Officer Vinayak Dutta.
“The JCB driver negligently damaged the naphtha pipeline, while carrying out excavation work,” he admitted.
“Immediately after the fire broke out, both ammonia tanks were water covered and the pipeline was plugged off,” said Dutta.
He further said that excavation work was carried out to lay the gas pipeline of Gas Authority of India.
Sources informed that for nearly one hour, hardly any coordination was seen from the disaster management team, as it was only fire fighters from Vasco, Verna and Zuari industry involved in dousing the fire.
However, the disaster management team acted after one hour and summoned police force to restrict the entry of people reaching the site, while Mormugao Deputy Collector Levinson Martins, who is in charge of Disaster Management and on leave, rushed to the site.
When asked why the reaction time of his team was very slow, Martins said the primary respondent such as the fire service had reached the site immediately. Simultaneously, Martins had alerted all authorities like the airport, police, PWD and others.
Director of Fire and Emergency Service Ashok Menon, who was personally monitoring the situation, admitted that it was a man-made tragedy.
“The extinguishing operation was carried out for over five hours, as tonnes of foam and water was constantly splashed on the leaked pipeline,” informed Menon.
“Fire tenders from Vasco, Verna, Old Goa, Ponda, Panjim and Margao were summoned, while Zuari Industries provided continuous reinforcement with regular water and foam supply from the plant,” added Menon.
He further said that continuous fire in the pipeline was due to presence of traces of naphtha, as leakage had occurred at a low-lying area of the pipeline.
“Plugging is an immediate method to control the naphtha fire, as the pipeline had only a plugging system at a distance of two-and-half kms. Traces were continuously flowing in the pipeline due to which fire was continuous for nearly five hours,” said Menon.
According to Assistant Fire Divisional officer Rajan Haldankar the estimated loss could be over Rs 2 crore.
Revenue Minister Jose Philip D’Souza, who is also holding the portfolio of factories and boilers, rushed to the site, while Deputy Speaker and Cortalim MLA Mauvin Godinho, Sancoale Deputy Sarpanch Ramakant Borkar, Chief Inspector of Factories and Boilers Pranjape, SP South Allen D’Sa, Deputy Superintendent of Police Mahesh Gaonkar, Additional Collector Y B Tawade and others were also present at the site.
Incidentally, a company worker who had brought his brand new Maruti Wagon-R, barely 15 days ago, was also charred in the incident.
Meanwhile, Verna police have registered an offence against JCB driver, gas authority of India and Zuari Agro Chemicals Ltd (ZACL) under sections 337 and 338 of the Indian Penal Code.
Probe ordered: Minister for Factories and Boilers and Vice Chairman of State Disaster Management Jose Philip D’Souza has initiated an enquiry into the fire incident at Zauarinagar-Sancoale.
D’Souza, who was at the site, informed media that major tragedy has been averted and thanked fire fighters for their efforts to bring the fire under control.
“An enquiry would be initiated to ascertain the entire details of the incident,” said D’Souza.
“I have directed Mormugao Deputy Collector Levinson Martins, who is in-charge of Disaster Management in Mormugao taluka, to submit a detailed report on today’s incident so that remedial measures are taken to avert such incidents in the future,” added D’Souza.
Deputy Speaker and Cortalim MLA Mauvin Godinho, who was also present at the site, said he has asked Chief Minister Digambar Kamat to convene a high-level meeting so that hazardous industries are asked to beef-up safety measures so that such incidents are controlled at the site in the shortest period in the future.
“Since Mormugao taluka is industrial capital of Goa, we have to rise up to the occasion and ensure that adequate measures are taken to ensure that such incidents are averted,” said Godinho.