The fire broke out following a huge blast in the oxygen house of the Steel Melting Shop (SMS) II wing of the public sector undertaking in the coastal city also called Vizag, about 600 km from here.
The toll could go up as several injured are said to be battling for life at the Seven Hills Hospital. There was chaos at the hospital as the medical staff found it difficult to attend to several badly injured workers. The bodies were shifted to the steel plant general hospital.
While there was no confirmation of the toll either from steel plant authorities or police, the legislator from Gajuvaka constituency, C. Venkataramaiah and some other witnesses said as many as 15 people were killed.
The victims include officials and permanent and contract workers.
This is said to be the worst disaster in the 40-year history of the steel plant.
Also known as the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL), the steel producing company was set up in 1971.
This is the third fire accident in less than two months and the fourth this year.
Two workers engaged by a private company were burnt alive in a blast in the recently commissioned blast furnace-III May 1.
In another fire mishap May 22, a conveyor belt carrying raw material to a new blast furnace completely melted, stalling the production and causing property loss of about Rs.1 crore. There were no casualties.
The blast furnace-III was erected as part of a plan to expand plant capacity to 6.3 million tonnes.
Steel Plant Employees' Union general secretary D. Adinarayana blamed negligence on the part of the management for frequent accidents in the plant.
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