Ten labourers buried alive in TN effluent tank burst
Chennai, Feb 1: Ten people, including nine from West Bengal, were buried alive when an industrial treatment plant broke and disgorged chemical sludge on the SIPCOT premises near Ranipet in Tamil Nadu’s Vellore district.
The accident occurred on Saturday morning when labourers of a private leather factory were sleeping in a car shed located about 50 metres from a common effluent treatment plant (CETP).
One of the CETP walls collapsed unexpectedly, releasing a large quantity of sludge that instantly buried the labourers.
“The tank burst around 12:30 am. The sludge buried them,” B Thandavan, Station Officer of Fire Service in SIPCOT, told Deccan Herald.
“Though we managed to reach the spot within two minutes, we could not rescue the victims as the sludge was thick. The chemical effluents with mainly chromic acid had covered the workers. It was difficult to walk. We used thick ropes to reach the victims,” he said.
The fire and rescue service personnel had a tough time recovering the bodies since the slush had piled up to about five metres. He added that the rescue team saved one person who had climbed to the roof of the shed and was shouting for help.
Disaster management officials who visited the spot said clearing the liquid would take a whole week.
Nine of the 10 dead were from West Bengal’s Midnapore district. A security guard from Tamil Nadu also died. The Bengali men were 20-25 years of age.
After inspecting the tank, SIPCOT officials said the unit was operating the CETP for more than 80 tanneries. The tank itself was 200 feet long, 75 feet wide and 20 feet high, and had a capacity of 2.5 lakh litres.
“The tank collapsed due to over-storage and poor maintenance. A detailed inquiry has been ordered,” said Superintendent of Police P K Senthil Kumari.
No arrest has been made so far. Senior officials of the leather factory went underground after the incident.
District Collector Nandagopal said the rescued person was admitted to Vellore Hospital and released on Saturday evening.