LPG tanker tumbles down ditch - Police warn villagers against lighting fires

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  • Published 26.09.08

Malda, Sept. 25: A tanker carrying liquefied petroleum gas overturned early this morning at Ahara, rolling down about 20 feet into a roadside ditch and triggering panic in two villages located within half-a-kilometre-radius of the spot on NH34.

Since the tanker lay with gas leaking out of it, fire brigade personnel and police have warned villagers not to light fires. Most of them had puffed rice and other dry food throughout the day. The tanker that was coming from the Indian Oil Corporation’s Haldia refinery and was bound for the LPG bottling plant in Jalpaiguri’s Raninagar had not been removed till late in the evening.

The driver of the tanker, Brajesh Das, blamed the poor condition of NH34 for the accident. “I was trying to negotiate large potholes when one of the front wheels got stuck in those craters. The coupling between the tanker and the cab broke and the tanker rolled down the road,” Das said. He said the tanker, also known as a bullet, contained 17 tonnes of LPG.

Malda police superintendent Satyajit Banerjee said the officials of the Indian Oil Corporation in Siliguri had been told to bring a crane to lift the bullet out of the ditch. “We do not have a crane that can lift 17 tonnes or more. We have cordoned off the area and there are two fire tenders at the spot since this morning,” the district police chief said.

He said his men were controlling the traffic passing through the spot located 35km from here, so that more accidents did not take place. “The condition of the national highway in the district is pathetic. There are regular accidents and even frequent loss of lives,” Banerjee said.

Yesterday, Malda district magistrate Chittaranjan Das had convened a meeting with officials of the National Highways Authority of India. “We told them to repair the highway before Pujas and they were supposed to take up the work today,” the district magistrate said.

Residents of Durgapur and Nabagram, the two villages where hearths remained unlit, had dry food today for fear of sparking a blaze. The smell of LPG wafted in the entire area. Shanti Sikdar, who stays in Durgapur, said the police had gone around the village warning people not to light fires. “We have been living in fear since early this morning. The police told us that one spark can blow us all up so we are having puffed and flattened rice, gram flour paste and other food that needs no cooking,” she said.

The officer-in-charge of Malda district fire station, Ashit Kumar Sarkar, said it was difficult to say how much gas had leaked out. “The Indian Oil Corporation has been told about the incident and once their officers and safety experts arrive, they will handle the situation,” he added.