With four separate conflagrations and a gas tanker bursting into flames after crashing on the highway, a mighty inferno raged on in the city yesterday. In the wee hours, a Bharat Petroleum gas tanker spiraled out of control, fell into a gutter and exploded near Mankhurd on the Sion-Trombay highway.
Alarm mounted as locals, roused from their sleep, saw gas leaking from the tanker. A massive explosion followed, and the blaze soon spread towards the nearby shanties, claiming the life of one and injuring 16, seven of whom are in critical condition. The victims were taken to Rajawadi, Sion and Shatabdi hospitals for treatment.
At Sion hospital
Itrat Ali, an eyewitness, narrated the chilling sequence of events that led to the death of the tanker’s cleaner. “It took place around 1 am. Seeing the tanker lose control, hit the divider and fall off the flyover, we immediately rushed to the spot and pulled out the cleaner, dragging him away from the tanker. We offered him water and made him sit on a chair but for some reason he limped back towards the tanker,” said Ali, adding, “He had just reached the tanker when there was a huge explosion that killed him on the spot. It seems the cleaner was destined to die.”
Five of Ali’s relatives have been admitted to Sion hospital after suffering burns. Four of them are in very critical condition. Shantaram Sarod (30), who was sleeping outside his room when the blaze occurred, suffered 35 per cent burns. He said, “I was fast asleep and was woken up by the explosion. I saw everyone running out of their homes. My home is about 20 huts away from the spot where the tanker exploded.”
Bhaiyalal Rawat (35) who suffered 25 per cent burns on his legs, is now in a stable condition. He said, “I was at the bridge when the tanker came and crashed into one side of the bridge, and then the other, before toppling over and falling into the gutter. There was a loud explosion and everyone started running. The winds fanned the fire, which spread quickly. As I tried to escape, my pants caught fire, burning my legs.”
Tulajabai Rukumpe (50) who suffered 15 per cent burns on one leg, said, “I saw the flames approaching my home and managed to run out of the room with my grandson. But both of us suffered minor burns.” Dr Meena Kumar, professor and head of the surgery department at Sion hospital, said, “At present, 13 patients with burns ranging from 5 per cent to 100 per cent are undergoing treatment at our hospital. Seven patients have suffered 60-100 per cent burns and are undergoing treatment in the Burns ICU. They are in extremely critical condition.”
A victim, identified as Kallu (45), is battling for his life at the hospital. “The patient was brought with close to 50 per cent burns. He is critical and under observation,” said Dr Vidya Thakur, deputy medical superintendent at the hospital.
The tanker’s cleaner, who was caught in the explosion and succumbed immediately, was brought into the hospital after being declared dead at Shatabdi Hospital. “The patient had suffered from almost 100 per cent burns. His entire body was charred. His viscera samples have been sent for chemical and histopathological analysis to the Kalina forensic lab,” said a doctor attached with the post mortem department.
A source in Bharat Petroleum said, “It was a bulk LPG tank lorry carrying 18 metric tonnes of LPG to the Pune LPG plant. Around 1 am, the tanker toppled and there was a gas leakage. Unfortunately, the cleaner died in the explosion and the driver was injured. A team is still investigating the matter and ensuring that there are minimum losses.”
Pioneer of capping oil well fires
Paul Neal ‘Red’ Adair was a pioneer in extinguishing and capping blazing and erupting oil wells across the world. He was a World War II veteran and has battled over 2,000 oil well and natural gas fires both offshore and on land. Adair was roped in during the 1991 Gulf War to extinguish oil well fires in Kuwait.
Number of fire engines used to douse the flames
Number of injured in critical condition
Number of people injured in the fire