The police have lodged a fresh case against public sector GAIL in connection with the tragedy.
   
“The case has been registered under Sections 304A (causing death by negligence), 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 286 (negligent conduct with respect to explosive substance) of the Indian Penal Code,” East Godavari District Superintendent of Police G Vijay Kumar said
   
The police had earlier on Friday registered a case under Section 174 CrPC (unnatural death).
   
A fresh case under more serious sections has been registered after examining eyewitnesses and recording statements of victims' relatives during the preliminary investigation, he said.
   
Several villagers had alleged that they had complained about foul smell of gas emanating from the pipeline but no effort was made to plug the leak.
   
"We had registered a case on Friday under Section 174 of CrPC(unnatural death) in connection with the incident. The villagers had alleged the gas leak had been reported in the past few days but no pipeline repairs were taken up (by the company). After initial investigation the sections have been altered," he said.
   
A special team has been formed to carry out a detailed probe.

"We are examining documents relating to the pipelines laid by GAIL whose officials will also be questioned," he said.
   
The villagers had alleged that the pipe was old and rusted. The investigators are also ascertaining whether the PSU had taken necessary safety measures for the gas pipeline passing through a populated area.

Inquiry panel to probe blast

Union Oil and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Friday constituted a high-level committee to probe the cause of the fire. GAIL and ONGC have been kept out of the inquiry committee.
   
The fire is suspected to have been caused by leakage in the 18-inch pipeline of GAIL near the Tatipaka refinery of the Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), about 550 km from Hyderabad.

Death toll rises to 16

Meanwhile, the condition of six of the injured, who received around 80 percent burns, remains critical, officials said.
   
"A baby girl undergoing treatment for severe burns died today at a private hospital in Kakinada. With this the toll in the incident has risen to 16," Kumar said.

Kumar said 20 others, who suffered burn injuries, were undergoing treatment at different hospitals. The condition of at least six of them remains critical as they have suffered around 80 percent burns.

Rs 25 lakh ex-gratia relief for blast victims

The government had on Friday announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 25 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased.

Compensation for the injured was also announced after Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan visited the accident site along with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.


"The total ex-gratia payment to the next of kin of the deceased will be Rs 25 lakh. Of this, Rs two lakh will be provided from the Prime Minister's Relief Fund, Rs three lakh from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund and Rs 20 lakh from GAIL (India) Limited," a Petroleum Ministry statement said.

"For the permanently disabled, Rs five lakh will be deposited as fixed deposit in their name by GAIL (India) Limited," it added.

All other injured people will be given an ex-gratia of Rs one lakh.

GAIL to bear expenses on treatment, damage to property

Assuring the best possible medical care for the injured, the Petroleum Ministry said GAIL will bear all expenses on treatment.

The Petroleum Ministry said GAIL will compensate damage to property and crops at market value.

"All thatched houses in the affected village will be converted into ‘pucca’ (brick-and-mortar) houses through CSR funds of GAIL and ONGC," the statement said.

"A world-class skill upgradation centre will be established near the site of the accident through CSR funds of GAIL and ONGC," it added.

 

JPN/Agencies

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