State gas utility GAIL today suspended two senior company officials of its Andhra Pradesh office after a fire caused by a possible leakage in an underground gas pipeline killed 19 persons and injured several others.
A massive fire on Friday morning in Nagaram village of East Godavari district in AP left 19 people dead and several others injured.
The fire was suspected to have been sparked when a tea vendor lit a stove in the vicinity of what was a leaking pipeline running 4 meters below the ground. "Pending the outcome of the inquiry set up both by the government as well as the company, two senior officials in-charge of regional operations and maintenance of the pipeline network have been suspended," GAIL said in a statement here.
GAIL has initiated implementation of a slew of relief measures for the affected families and villagers of Nagaram and is paying Rs20 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased besides the Rs 5lakh compensation announced by the Central and state governments.
GAIL today handed over Rs3.89 crore to the district administration towards compensation for the families of the deceased at Rs20 lakh each along with Rs50,000 to each of the 19 injured. The disbursement of compensation will begin tomorrow.
Company Chairman BC Tripathi said, "GAIL deeply mourns the tragic loss of life and property in the unfortunate incident along the natural gas pipeline of the company at Tatipaka in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. Our ED (Human Resources), Amit Ray, has been nominated as the nodal officer for coordinating the relief and rehabilitation measures and closely work with local authorities, government and villagers."
In addition to the relief measures announced by Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan during his visit to the incident site, GAIL will bear the medical expenses of all the injured persons and put Rs 5 lakh in fixed deposit for each of the permanently disabled persons to enable them to access benefits through monthly income schemes.
"A detailed plan of action is being drawn up for rehabilitation of the affected persons," GAIL said, adding that food and temporary shelters have already been arranged near the affected site.
The loss of property as well as crops is being assessed in consultation with district authorities and GAIL will also be extending compensation for the same.
GAIL said that its Tatipaka-Kondapalli pipeline had been certified safe by various national and international agencies of repute. "We follow all statutory and safety guidelines in our operations. However, without waiting for the findings of the inquiry committees constituted by the government and GAIL, the company has voluntarily dispatched multiple teams to undertake foot-patrol of every inch of its pipeline network in KG basin."
Further, the Internal Audit Group of GAIL shall undertake audits to thoroughly check the various pipeline systems across the country and submit a detailed report within a fortnight.
GAIL has constituted an internal inquiry committee headed by its Executive Director (Operations and Maintenance). It has also decided to engage an international consultant to conduct an intensive third-party audit of its pipeline safety systems and other hydrocarbon installations.
"The GAIL chairman is deeply concerned by the tragic incident and is personally leading the relief and rehabilitation activities. GAIL is committed to taking all necessary actions and no effort will be spared in finding the cause and to take corrective action so as to establish the trust and faith of all stakeholders," the statement said.