IHS Maritime 360 – Activists query Alang blast death toll

(Written by Christina George)

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30 June 2014 - Green activists have said they believe an explosion at a shipbreaking yard in Alang in the Bhavnagar district of Gujarat in India on Saturday caused more fatalities than initially reported.

According to an official statement, five labourers died and at least 10 were injured by a blast on chemical tanker Perin, being dismantled at a plot owned by Paras Steel Corporation.

But Gopal Krishna, founder of the Indian environmental organisation Toxic Watch Alliance, told IHS Maritime that “the figures given by the authorities are not accurate”.

“One worker told me that 10 workers died while 10 others were injured, of which three are extremely critical,” he said.

On Saturday, police sub-inspector KJ Rathod of Marine Police Station at Alang was quoted by the local press as saying five people were killed and seven injured after a fire broke out following an explosion in the ship, being dismantled in plot number 140 at the yard.

The explosion would initially appear to have been triggered by a sudden leak of gas during shipbreaking, he added.

The Indian Express quoted a senior official of the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) as saying: “When the labourers were cutting through the metal near the engine room, the gas trapped between the engine room and the compartment below leaked, causing the explosion.”

Krishna said: “This blast proves that the shipbreaking activities at Alang are still not following the Basel Convention rules. If the vessel was gas-free for hot works, then this explosion should not have taken place.”

Both the offices of Paras Steel Corporation in Bhavnagar and Mumbai could not be contacted despite several efforts.

Meanwhile, the police said the exact cause of the accident would be clear only after forensic reports are available.