A blast inside the water ballast of an ONGC tanker ship that killed five persons on Tuesday at the Cochin Shipyard in Kochi, is being taken seriously by the Centre and an independent probe is likely, said Union Minister of State for Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan.
Radhakrishnan, who arrived in Kochi on Wednesday and inspected the accident site, dropped hints that an independent probe into the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation tanker blast was likely.
"At the moment, the Kerala Police, Factories and Broilers Department and the Shipyard are all probing the accident. We will now wait for all the reports to come and then will decide what should be next," said Radhakrishnan, when asked if an independent probe into the incident would be initiated by the Centre.
The deceased were all workers at the shipyard. They have been identified as: Unni, a native of Eroor in Kochi, Jayan, hailing from Thuravoor in Alappuzha, Jebin from Kottayam, Ramshad from Vypine and Kannan.
Unni and Jayan worked as firemen in the shipyard, while Ramshad was a supervisor and Jebin was a contract labourer.
The Minister also met trade union leaders and other officials of the shipyard.
A team of forensic experts reached the accident site on Wednesday and were conducting detailed tests.
Madhu S Nair, Chairman of Cochin Shipyard in a press meet confirmed that the explosion took place inside the tank of the ship.
He said, "We have been carrying out maintenance work for days together inside the tank. So, at this point, it is unclear what caused the fire. There should be a detailed inquiry."
The explosion occurred at around 9.45 am on Tuesday when nine workers were engaged in welding inside the water ballast. At least four others were injured in the blast.
The tanker ship was dry-docked at the Cochin Shipyard for a month for repairs and maintenance. All the dead are from Kerala.
According to preliminary reports, there were 20 people on board the ship when the explosion occurred. Thirteen people were injured, one of whom is critical. The others have suffered minor burns.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari had earlier tweeted expressing grief over the deaths.
(With IANS inputs)