A view of Porus Labs site after an explosion occured at the plant in Akkireddygudem of Eluru district. (Photo: By Arrangement)
Vijayawada: A casual talk between two colleagues for a few minutes — without carrying out their critical functions — and a malfunction of a machine’s auto shut-off feature appears to have resulted in the blast at Porus Laboratories.
According to highly-placed sources, privy to the investigation, a chemist — identified as Krishnaiah — was supposed to mix phthalic anhydride with mono methylamine gas in the 3 KL capacity reactor in recommended proportions to produce 4-nitro n-methylphthalimide in the stage one in the first floor of the plant.
However, when he went down to the ground floor at 10.30 pm to replenish phthalic anhydride, he was caught up in a conversation with his colleague.
When Krishnaiah returned to the work on the first floor, he noticed the exothermic reaction of chemicals in the reactor causing heat beyond permissible limits. He shut the valves to control the heat in the reactor. However, it was too late and the reactor exploded, killing Krishnaiah and four others on the spot.
The machine was supposed to shut off when the temperature rose beyond a permissible limit. But on a fateful day, the machine's auto shut-off feature did not function properly, which allegedly made the human error so fatal.
The toll has risen to eight in the mishap at Akkireddygudem of Musunuru mandal in Eluru district, while the blast has left 13 others injured.
Questions have been raised as to why the safety mechanism had failed to work to avert the blast. The reactor itself was equipped with an auto cut-off mechanism if it generates more heat than permissible.
This mechanism also appears to have failed due to the lack of maintenance. There are allegations that hooters and sirens also failed to function to alert workers to run to safety.
The Eluru district administration has taken the inquiry involving experts from several departments and it is likely to submit a report on the fire mishap in the Porus Lab to the state government soon.