Toll in GAIL pipeline blast rises to 17, probe begins

Hyderabad: The death toll in Friday’s explosion in a GAIL pipeline in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district Saturday rose to 17 while a high-level committee began its probe.

Two injured, including a five-year-old girl, succumbed at a hospital in Kakinada Saturday, taking the toll to 17.

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The explosion and fire in the pipeline Friday morning killed 15 villagers in Nagaram village in the coastal district, about 550 km from here.

Officials said 21 injured were undergoing treatment at hospitals in Kakinada, Amalapuram, Rajole and Nagaram. The condition of seven of them is stated to be critical.

The massive fire, due to apparent leakage of gas from the 18-inch pipeline, engulfed several houses and shops in the vicinity around 5.30 a.m. The flames also reduced to ashes coconut trees in a 10 acre area.

While 12 people were burnt to death, three succumbed at various hospitals. The explosion in the pipeline carrying gas to Lanco power station at Kondapalli near Vijayawada occurred near ONGC Gas Collection Station at Tatipaka.

Meanwhile, the high-level committee appointed by the union petroleum ministry visited the village. R.P. Singh, who is heading the panel, said if people insist the ministry would consider shifting ONGC refinery from Tatipaka.

He said the committee had not arrived at a conclusion with regard to the reasons of the blast and fire. Singh said the committee members were collecting pipe and soil samples.

The committee met villagers, officials of the district administration, GAIL and ONGC as part of the probe.

Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who visited the accident site Friday evening, promised stringent action against those found guilty of negligence.

An ex-gratia payment of Rs.25 lakh each will be given to the kin of the deceased. It includes Rs.20 lakh from ONGC/GAIL, Rs.3 lakh from Andhra Pradesh and Rs.2 lakh announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Meanwhile, YSR Congress Party chief Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy visited the village and consoled the families of the victims. He demanded a compensation of Rs.1 crore each for the kin of the deceased.