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Boiler blast kills worker, injures 13

Malda, Jan. 31: One person died and 13 others were injured when a boiler burst and spilled hot water on people who were working overtime at a plywood manufacturing factory near here last night.

Other than the workers, the owner of the unit also suffered minor injuries. The condition of two workers is stated to be critical.

The blast occurred at the unit at Bharattari under Milki panchayat, 12km from here. The worker who died was Niranjan Rajak, 45.

Six of the injured are under treatment at the Malda Medical College and Hospital. Doctors said Gopal Ghosh, 35, and Rabbul Sabji, 22, were in a critical state. The remaining seven workers were admitted to other hospitals in Malda and released after being administered first-aid. The deceased as well as the injured were from Bharattari.

The explosion happened around 10pm yesterday and about 30 workers and the owner, Gobinda Dutta, were present at the unit.

Nibaran Mondal, a worker, said the normal work hour was from 8am to 8pm. “During the normal work hours, around 250 labourers work in the factory. It would have been a major disaster if the boiler had exploded during that time. When the boiler burst at 10pm, about 30 workers were there. They had stayed back to finish some work,” he said.

Nibaran Mondal, another worker and a resident of Bharattari, said: “Yesterday late evening, we heard a huge sound and rushed to the factory. We found workers with burn injuries and rushed them to the hospital. Niranjan Rajak died on the spot.”

The steam generated by the boiler is used to soften the bark of trees, the raw material of plywood.

Asked how the accident had happened, Nibaran said: “We cannot give the exact reason for the blast and only experts can comment on it. From our experience, it seems that too much heat had been generated inside the boiler as it was in operation beyond the usual time of 8pm.”

Both Ghosh and Sabji have suffered injuries in their eyes as hot water from the boiler has fallen on them. They have suffered burns in other parts of their bodies also.

Englishbazar police said they couldn’t trace owner Gobinda Dutta, who had suffered minor injuries. “The unit has been sealed and a probe is on,” said a police officer.

The workers said they had spotted the owner in the factory at the time of the blast but he couldn’t be traced later.

Kalyan Mukherjee, the superintendent of police, Malda, said the reason for the blast was yet to be ascertained. “We will check out whether adequate safety measures were in place in the factory,” he said.

Prashanta Bhattacharya, a deputy director at the Directorate of Boilers, said over the phone from Calcutta that a probe would be conducted and a team would inspect the factory. The directorate is under the labour department of the state government.