Gas pipeline blast kills 16 in southern India: minister


HYDERABAD: A massive explosion Friday on a state-owned gas pipeline running through the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh killed at least 16 people and gutted scores of houses, a state minister said. “At least 16 people are dead. We have recovered 13 bodies so far,” state home minister N. Chinna Rajappa told AFP after the blast near a refinery in East Godavari district.

A huge fire which broke out on the pipeline owned by the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) was now under control and the gas had been cut off, a senior administrative officer told AFP from the scene.

Witnesses contacted by phone told AFP that angry locals had entered the premises of the refinery in the coastal district, pelted it with stones and vandalised property.

The Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency quoted GAIL chairman B.C.Tripathi as saying the cause of the blast was not yet known. “We are currently focused on rescue and relief operations,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had asked the petroleum minister and and other senior officers to ensure immediate relief at the accident site.

“My thoughts with the families of those who lost their lives in the GAIL pipeline fire. Prayers with the injured,” he tweeted.

Earlier this month six people were killed by a poisonous gas leak at one of India’s largest government-owned steel plants in central Chhattisgarh state.

India’s biggest offshore gas fields are located in the Bay of Bengal to the east of Andhra Pradesh