(Eds: adds company statement, injured workers' quotes) Wardha, Feb 3 (PTI) Thirty eight workers were injured while working on emptying a blast furnace in the Uttam Galva Metallics steel plant near Wardha on Wednesday, officials said.
A sudden outflow of hot air from the furnace injured teams working in that area as they were unexpectedly exposed to hot air and ash, the company said in a statement.
District Collector Vivek Bhimanwar said the injured workers were admitted to two nearby hospitals, while those in critical condition were taken to Nagpur for further treatment.
An official statement by the district administration said the furnace was shut down on Tuesday evening for annual maintenance. On Tuesday morning, when 50 workers were removing fly ash from the furnace, some of them came in contact with hot air and coal particles, the statement added.
While 28 injured were taken to the Vinoba Bhave hospital at Sawangi, 10 were shifted to the Kasturba hospital at Sevagram in Wardha, the statement said.
Six workers, who sustained over 40 per cent burn injuries, were later shifted to an intensive care unit.
'I reached the plant for duty at 8 am. While we were removing ash from the blast furnace, there was a group of four workers at each ash removal point and there were 16 such points, said Hariram Durga, a worker undergoing treatment at the Sawangi hospital.
Durga, who belongs to Kalahandi district of Odisha said his senior colleague sustained minor injuries on his hands and face.
Another worker Pushpendra Patel said, 'I resumed duty just a day before. I don't understand what happened. I got stuck in a belt when I tried to flee from the spot and was evacuated later.' Patel belongs to Satna district of Madhya Pradesh and joined the company on February 2 last year. He sustained burn injuries to his right hand and leg and is undergoing treatment at the Sawangi hospital.
Uttam Galva Metallics is located at Bhugaon village, 10 km from Wardha town and is among the largest manufacturers of cold rolled steel and galvanized steel in western India.
The company said in a statement that it prioritises the safety, security and wellbeing of its workers.
'This is our biggest priority and we take all the necessary steps to ensure safety procedures are followed by our teams at our plants,' it said.
'In an unfortunate incident on the morning of 3rd February, 38 members of our team were injured while working on emptying a blast furnace. According to the preliminary investigation report, the furnace had been shut down on 2nd February for annual maintenance and the furnace evacuation had been completed,' the statement said.
It said a sudden out flow of hot air from the furnace injured teams working in that area as they were unexpectedly exposed to hot air and ash.
'First aid was administered to them immediately and they were transferred to the hospital for medical attention.
Of the 38 injured, eight workers have been shifted to a hospital in Nagpur for specialized treatment,' it said.
The company is extending full support to the injured individuals and their families, and is committed to providing them the best medical care needed for their full recovery, it said.
'A detailed internal investigation is also being carried out to identify the cause of the accident,' it said.
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