Fatal Cuddalore boiler blast raises fresh concerns on industrial safety

Four persons were killed, 15 injured and several trapped as fire broke out following a boiler blast at a unit in SIPCOT Industrial Estate

Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu, Explosion, firecracker factory blast, Fireworks, Kattumannarkoil
Industrial safety norms in Tamil Nadu remain far from satisfactory, say activists

A boiler blast on Thursday at Kudikadu village near Cuddalore, in Tamil Nadu, killed four persons and injured 15. The industrial accident happened at a pesticide manufacturing unit of Crimsun Organics Pvt Ltd at SIPCOT Industrial Estate.

The plant was operating with 19 regular staffers and 18 contractual labourers when the blast happened, at 07:45 am. Thanks to COVID lockdown curbs, only 50% of the workforce had reported for duty.

“The boiler mixer machine burst. Chemical gas emerged from the furnace of the boiler and spread nearby, which resulted in a fire accident around the plant,” the police said. A strong breeze fuelled the fire.

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Residents who rushed out of their homes reported seeing thick plumes of smoke. Fire service was alerted and the personnel doused the fire. Four people including a 35-year-old woman were reported dead. The injured have been hospitalised. About 15 workers are trapped inside, and rescue efforts are on.

Tamil Nadu Labour Welfare Minister CV Ganesan visited the injured at the Cuddalore Government Hospital. Promising a detailed enquiry, Ganesan said the injured, and the kin of the deceased, would be given due compensation.

Safety concerns

Tamil Nadu, which hosts a variety of labour-intensive industries — such as firecrackers, leather tanning and textiles — has faced its fair share of criticism over environmental compliance.

Last July, six persons were killed and 17 injured in a boiler explosion at a thermal power plant of Central government-owned NLC India Ltd in Cuddalore district.

Also read: Vulnerable to COVID, Tangedco staff seek frontline workers tag

On Thursday, activists were quick to point out industrial safety norms in the state remain far from satisfactory. Had the norms being followed — especially in a unit manufacturing toxic chemicals — the accident might not have happened, they said. Cuddalore SIPCOT has already drawn criticism over gas leaks and toxic effluent discharges, they pointed out.

Crimsun Organics, established in 2016, produces crop protection chemical active ingredients and intermediates at the Cuddalore facility. In 2017, the company sold a stake to Parijat, an agrochemicals firm.

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