Mumbai: Forty-five people were injured in a huge explosion on Wednesday at the Bharat Petroleum Corporation refinery at Mahul village near Chembur. Five of them are admitted in the intensive cardiac care unit of Sushrut Hospital, of whom two are critical.
The impact of the explosion was such that houses in Mahul were rattled, glass panes and mirrors were shattered and the big bang could be heard in Pratiksha Nagar near Sion. According to local eyewitnesses, a series of loud explosions were preceded by a fire; thick black plumes of smoke could be from several kilometres away. A level III call was placed to the fire brigade, after which eight fire engines, nine water tankers and three foam vehicles were deployed. At the time of going to press, operations to cool down the premises were on.
“The cooling operations are underway, till this task is over we cannot confirm that the fire has been brought under control,” said a fire control officer. Among the 45 injured, 16 were contract workers and the rest were BPCL employees. Half of them were soon discharged; they had sustained minor injuries. BPCL’s official statement said, “A fire occurred at BPCL Mumbai Refinery at Mahul at around 14:45 hrs. The fire was in the Compressor shed of the Hydrocracker plant.’’
Workers present at the spot said that there was a gas leak in the main control room. There were also four workers from Trilok Fabricants working in the control room. The minute the workers smelt gas, they ran, and a minute later there was an explosion. “We ran the minute we smelt some gas, fearing the worst. The minute we did so, there was a loud explosion and glass shreds and debris was falling on us,” said a worker. Certain workers unions have raised questions about the hush-hush manner in which BPCL conducted the rescue operation. The entire plant is run by BPCL and their staff, in addition to three contract companies that outsource labour for tasks like reprocessing, cleaning, plant erection and
A worker said that this is not the first time an incident has occurred on the premises. “Two months ago, a fire had erupted in the same room where the explosion occurred.” Jagrut Kamgar Manch (JKM) of Vashi Naka raised a few questions about the safety of workers and alleged that there is no transparency in information disseminated by BPCL officials. “After such an explosion, one would expect BPCL officials to give accurate information. They are saying workers sustained only minor injuries. We hope no worker is dead,” said a JKM member. BPCL officials confirmed that investigations are on to ascertain the cause of the explosion and claimed that the refinery and the plants around the mishap site were functioning normally.