Hyderabad: Fifteen villagers were burnt to death and 30 injured Friday as a huge fire and deafening explosions caused by suspected leak engulfed a GAIL gas pipeline in Andhra Pradesh, officials said.
As flames several meters high leaped from the pipeline passing through Nagaram village in East Godavari district, several of the villagers jolted out of sleep by the blasts failed to escape the blaze.
The dead include three women and three children. Officials said the fatalities could rise as the condition of 15 of the injured was said to be critical.
The bodies were charred beyond recognition. The village, located in the picturesque Konaseema region, plunged into gloom. Several cattle and birds were also reduced to ashes.
State Finance Minister Y. Ramakrishnudu said 15 people were killed and many injured when the fire erupted around 5.30 a.m. in the coastal region.
“The fire caused massive losses. Coconut trees and other crops in over 10 acres were reduced to ashes,” the minister said.
The injured were shifted to hospitals in Amalapuram and Kakinada towns. The injured include four children. One of them is 18 months old.
The fire devastated the village due to the suspected leakage in the 18-inch pipeline of GAIL India Ltd, near the Tatipaka refinery of the Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), about 550 km from Hyderabad.
Most villagers were asleep when the disaster struck. Fire tenders rushed to the village doused the flames.
Angry villagers attacked the Gas Collection Station near the village and damaged a few vehicles. They alleged that officials didn’t take any action despite complaints of the pipeline gathering rust and the smell of leaking gas.
GAIL officials said the cause of the disaster would be known only after a thorough probe.
They said rescue and relief operations were on.
President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi joined leaders of Andhra Pradesh to express grief over the deaths.
The president said he was “extremely saddened” to learn about the accident. Modi added: “My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives.”
Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu cut short his visit to Delhi to visit the accident site.
He expressed grief at the loss of lives. He said action would be taken against those found negligent.
Deputy Chief Minister N. Chinna Rajappa blamed negligence of GAIL officials for the disaster.
Union Minister for Urban Development M. Venkaiah Naidu apprised Modi of the incident.
Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhara Rao also condoled the deaths.
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