The decommisssioned French warship Le Clemenceau may be on its way back, but all is not well at Alang. Another French ship China Sea Discovery caught fire at the shipyard on February 17, 2006, killing five labourers.
The 19,000 tonne passenger vessel, now owned by Kishor Bansal, went up in flames while it was being dismantled with gas cutters. It took about a day to bring the fire under control and it was reported that five labourers had "gone missing. The skeletal remains of three of them were found on February 21, four days after the incident.
In fact, till February 20, 2006, the local police, authorities of the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) and the shipbreakers maintained that the disappearance of labourers went unnoticed because of the chaos following the fire.
For now, four of the five dead have been identified and the skeletal remains sent to the Bhavnagar Medical Collage for forensic tests. We are trying to contact their relatives, said investigation officer Vikram Vyas.
Port officer K H Gohil added that the GMB has initiated an inquiry and a report on the accident would be ready by the end of February. Gohil, however, refused to divulge details on the number of labourers at work. But he said: "Fortunately there have not been many accidents recently but this incident has again underscored the need to follow safety norms strictly."
GMB's CEO H K Dash avoided attributing any cause to the accident. "It is too early to hold anyone responsible," he said.
The Ship Breakers Association of Alang and Bansal have been tight-lipped about the incident. Raj Bansal, the president of the association refused to speak with this correspondent. But the association has issued a press release, which states: "Those who died will be given compensation by the ship breakers.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.