Six killed in boiler blast at Neyveli Lignite power plant

Published : July 01, 2020 19:50 IST

Smoke billows from a fire after an explosion in Neyveli Lignite Corporation power plant in Tamil Nadu’s Cuddalore district, on July 1. Photo: PTI

At least six contract workers were fatally scalded and 11 others sustained serious burns when a boiler exploded in the 210-mw Unit 5 of Thermal Power Station II of the Neyveli Lignite Corporation India Limited, a unit under the Government of India’s Ministry of Coals, at Neyveli town in Cuddalore district in Tamil Nadu, on July  1.

The injured, including one executive, three junior engineers, two technicians and remaining workers, were referred to a private hospital in Chennai for further treatment. The management, according to sources, has placed the head of the unit under suspension pending enquiry. This is the second serious mishap in two months in a unit of TPS II involving a boiler. The earlier accident took place in May 7 killing five contract workers. A departmental inquiry ordered into the incident is still on.

The accident occurred when the workers were trying to revive the unit that tripped on June 30 night. A team of workers, including engineers and contract workers under non-annual maintenance category, was travelling upward in the maintenance lift adjoining the huge boiler when it suddenly developed leak and burst, spewing out huge volumes of hot steam all over. The steam hit the maintenance workers in full blast, killing six of them on the spot. They suffered 60 to 80 per cent burn injuries. Others were given preliminary treatment and later referred to the Chennai hospital. Three among them are said to be serious.

The boilers that were three decades old, a Contract Labourers’ Union functionary claimed, were allowed to run continuously for power generation. “The boilers in the unit erected then by the Tiruchi BHEL were three decades old. But over a period of time it developed punctures. Previously the NLC used to enforce one-day total shutdown of all its plants so that it could undertake total maintenance. But as the demand for power remained high and the government pressurising for more production, the unit was kept running continuously,” said the Union functionary.

He further said that the NLC had provided a compensation of Rs.25 lakh each to the families of those who were killed in the accident in May besides a job to a family member. “It is time for the NLC to upgrade and replace the old machinery that has outlived its utility time. Maintenance is also outsourced today,” he said. Power generation from the unit has been suspended as of now whereas other units are functioning normally. Senior officials inspected the unit.