With two more people succumbing to their burn injuries on Sunday, the toll in Friday's deadly fire-blast, apparently caused by leakage from a GAIL gas pipeline in Andhra Pradesh's East Godavari district, rose to 19 even as the condition of at least three others remains critical, police said.
"Two men who were undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Kakinada succumbed to their burns in the early hours. With this, the toll has risen to 19," East Godavari District Superintendent of Police G Vijay Kumar told PTI. The condition of at least three among the 15 others who are undergoing treatment in different hospitals remains critical as they have suffered around 80% burns, the SP said.
The massive blaze started early Friday morning in Nagaram village in the coastal district, about 560 kms from Hyderabad, apparently after leaked gas from the pipeline ignited when a tea vendor lit his stove. Following a blast, the gigantic flames scorched houses, coconut palms and everything else in a radius of half a kilometre.
Police, who registered a case of negligence against the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) on Saturday, after examining eyewitnesses, recording statements of victims' relatives and based on preliminary investigation, said they have begun the probe by collecting documents relating to the pipes laid.
Some residents of Nagaram had alleged GAIL had failed to act on their complaints of gas leaks from its pipeline in the past few days.
Police were also ascertaining whether the PSU had taken necessary safety measures for the gas pipeline passing through a populated area. "The investigation process in on...the investigating officials are collecting material and documents and finding out what precautions the company had taken (with regard to pipeline)...the GAIL officials will also be questioned," the senior police official explained.
Meanwhile, East Godavari district Collector Neetu Prasad held a meeting with GAIL officials on Sunday and discussed the impact of explosion and damage caused to the human lives and property. The collector discussed the quantum of compensation and also relief and rescue operations in the village.
She explained to GAIL authorities that earlier too some incidents of gas leakage had occurred, but not to such a devastating extent. She urged the authorities to take stringent steps to stop recurrence of such incidents in future and to replace the damaged and rusted pipelines passing through the village and other areas in the district.
The district administration will submit a comprehensive report on the incident, including rescue and relief operations and the list of deceased persons and those injured, to the state government, she said.
Prasad also urged the GAIL authorities to pay an ex-gratia to the kin of the victims and help in construction of their houses and job to at least one member from the families of the deceased.
GAIL (Project) Director A Karnataka assured that ex-gratia will be paid to the mishap-affected persons and that they would also look into the other demands.
The pipelines were set up in 2001 and will work till 2016, but keeping in view the preventive measures, the pipeline will be shifted away from the houses and a survey will be conducted of all the existing pipelines in the district, he said.