Mumbai: Villagers trapped as ONGC fire spreads to nullah
Villagers blame ONGC officials for apathy after blast claims four lives
A major fire at ONGC's Uran plant killed four people on Tuesday and also highlighted the firm's alleged negligence towards the residents of the adjoining villages. The villagers were trapped inside their houses as the blaze spread to the nullah, which carries hazardous chemicals along with storm water from the ONGC and flows through the surrounding villages.
Three Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) officers — N A Nayka, S Paswan and S Khushwaha — are among the deceased. The fourth victim has been identified as ONGC's resident production superintendent C N Rao.
Three others were injured in the fire at the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) processing plant in Uran and are in critical condition. "Fire broke out in storm water drainage around 7 am and was successfully doused within two hours," said ONGC in a statement CISF's ONGC Commander Lalit Shah said, "Around 7am, we received a call about a minor fire in the storm line, following which a team was rushed to the spot. Later, there was an explosion in which four CISF men sustained injuries and were shifted to a hospital. Three of them died."
Some ONGC workers, on condition of anonymity, told mid-day that the three blasts happened in an interval of 10 to 15 minutes. The deceased men had gone to inspect the fire site when the explosions happened and four of them were killed, the workers added.
Fire at the processing plant spread to the nullah in the village in no time and injured one villager
ONGC's nullah, which flows into the sea after passing through several houses in Nagaon and Pirwadi villages, was on fire as the flammable chemical — Naphtha — had leaked into it, leaving no room for the villagers to evacuate. The villagers, who had given their land to the ONGC several years ago for the plant, and were relocated about 15 feet away from the site, alleged that not a single official came to their rescue.
There was no drinking water and food for the villagers, including several children, as the massive blaze destroyed the water pipeline. "We don't have water as the pipelines were destroyed. We cannot even cook food. ONGC always throws chemicals in this nullah, which goes directly into the sea," said Hemchandra Patil, another resident.
ONGC plant in Uran, Navi Mumbai
Tuesday's incident also brought back the horrific memories of 2004 fire for Ria Ram Patil, who resides adjacent to ONGC plant site. "I cannot forget the 2004 incident where I saw my uncle burn to death. My brother-in-law, who was three feet away from the nullah, was also injured. Today's fire was even worst and we did not have a way out in case the fire spread to our houses," she said.
Anjali Kushal Patil, another villager, said, "When the fire broke out, some people from the ONGC asked us to run away. But, we couldn't because we need to cross the nullah, which was then on fire, to leave our house."
Villager hurt too
M D Aslam was filling water from a tap near the nullah when suddenly the fire started in the drain. As the 20-year-old started to run away from the blaze, he fell down and fractured his arm. The villagers claimed they have made several requests to the ONGC for accommodation in a safe location, however, no action has been taken yet.
Nilesh Thali of Pirwadi village said, "ONGC should not give us houses near sites where they throw their hazardous chemicals. But they are least bothered and least helpful to those who gave their land to this company."
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