Just two weeks after the tanker blast at Chala, 18 tonnes of LPG leaked out of a bullet tanker at the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) bottling plant in Udayamperoor on Monday. The emergency safety measures and timely alert issued in the entire Udayamperoor area prevented a major accident, and there were no casualties.
According to Raju, an eyewitness, a bullet tanker lorry driver from Karnataka, the incident occurred around 5.15 pm, when a bullet tanker lorry was unloading gas at Tanker Load Decantation (TLD) shed at the bottling plant. “There are 13 TLDs in the plant besides two which are newly set up. The bullet tanker driver connected the gas valve of the bullet tanker with a newly set up TLD. But by this time, one of the officials in the plant said that he had connected the valve to the wrong TLD and advised him to connect it to another one. Accidentally, without disconnecting the valve from the TLD, the driver moved the bullet tanker forward, and the whole value panel of the bullet tanker broke down. About 18 tonnes of LPG leaked out within 15 minutes. The gas spread to every part of the plant. Later, chemicals were pumped in to vaporise the gas,” he said.
SI Sajeev Kumar, of Udayamperoor police station, has said that as soon as the tanker began to leak, the electricity connection was disconnected.
“An alarm was raised. Mobile phones were switched off. By 6.30 pm, a safety check was conducted on the plant, and within half-an-hour, the electricity resumed. The accident would have been disastrous as about 60 bullet tankers and over 100 trucks carrying cylinders were parked near the plant,” he said.
The police have arrested lorry driver Murughan, of Tamil Nadu. “A case has been registered, and negligence on the part of the plant officials will also be investigated,” said Sajeev Kumar.
A Fire and Rescue Services unit from Tripunithura had arrived, but their vehicle could not enter the plant as the road was completely occupied by LPG trucks and bullet tankers.
Local people thronged the IOC bottling plant gate in agitation. Joy Thomas, who lives near the plant, said that their lives are in danger because the explosive objects are handled without safety measures. “A minor leak will burn down the entire area. The machines here are old and rusty. A major accident can occur any time. Besides, hundreds of tankers arrive here each day, and there is no space for parking these vehicles. The roads are so narrow that no rescue operation can be conducted in time,” said Joy.