‘Plant manager put duty above self during ammonia gas leak’

It took four hours to contain the situation: official

The presence of mind displayed by SPY Agros Private Limited Manager Srinivasa Rao during the ammonia leak on the plant premises on June 27 that helped save thousands of of lives.

However, his eagerness to restrict further damage by turning off the valve that was delivering the gas from the pressurised storage chamber to the coolant pipelines, led to his death as ammonia cloud had engulfed him by then, said Chittoor Deputy Chief Inspector of Factories M.V. Siva Kumar Reddy.

The plant management agreed to pay a compensation of ₹50 lakh to Srinivasa Rao’s wife Sri Lakshmi and the first instalment of ₹38 lakh was paid on Sunday. A team of Fire Department, Inspector of Factories and SPY Agros employees battled for four hours to plug the leak .

Safety lapse

According to the officials, a wrong specification of welding rod was used for the pipeline the previous night, which resulted in the giving away of the weld joint when the cooling plant was started, for which high-pressure ammonia is utilised as coolant. Two tonnes of ammonia was said to be stored in the tank, but proper permissions were not there from the Controller of Explosives, they said. These lapses were being probed by a team which will submit its report on June 30 (Tuesday).

Mr. Siva Kumar Reddy, who happened to be in Nandyal, his hometown, on that day, sought the permission of Collector G. Veerapandian to join the leak plugging and rescue operations. The leak happened at 9.45 a.m. and Mr. Siva Kumar Reddy identified the source . A plan was made to climb the slippery staircase close to the tank after the cloud was doused with the help of fire engines. The operation was completed by 2.30 p.m., and the ammonia dissolved in water was pumped out.

The factory did not have emergency vents on the ridge roof. There was no emergency exit either, he said. The Collector on Monday presented certificates of appreciation to those who worked to plug the leak.

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