Acetylene Leak Led to Explosion at Cochin Shipyard
Investigators looking into the deadly blast aboard the drillship Sagar Bhushan announced Wednesday that it was likely caused by leakage of acetylene gas. The vessel was undergoing drydock repairs at Cochin Shipyard in Kerala when an explosion and fire occurred in a ballast tank, killing five contractors and injuring at least 11. One of the survivors is in critical condition, with burn injuries approaching 50 percent coverage.
“Preliminary investigations pointed to leakage of acetylene leading to the blast, but further investigation is required to ascertain how the leakage occurred and whether it was a case of human error or not,” said P.P. Shams, assistant commissioner of police for Thrikkakara.
Investigators are also looking into the reasons behind the shipyard's delay in reporting the accident to authorities. Shoreside emergency responders said that they learned of the blast from media reports, not from the yard.
The blast occurred on a national holiday, and full-time yard employees were not present. Union officials have raised questions about whether the contractors working in the vessel's ballast tank had adequate safety supervision. Cochin Shipyard's management denied that the holiday had any impact on the safety of operations. "The holiday has not affected the functioning of the shipyard in any way. The work was being carried out in the presence of adequate number of fire safety officers. One of the deceased . . . was a senior fireman with the [yard]," said director Madhu Nair, speaking to the New Indian Express. Nair added that the yard's management received warning of a gas leak near the ship's A/C plant just before the explosion, but an order to halt hot work came too late to prevent the casualty.