At least seven workers died due to suffocation after inhaling fumes while cleaning a “giant edible oil storage tank” in the Kakinada district of Andhra Pradesh on Thursday, 9 February.
The incident took place in an oil factory run by Ambati Subbanna & Company, a firm that has been in business since 1910.
The factory is located in G Ragampeta village which comes under the Peddapuram mandal of the Kakinada district.
Preliminary reports suggest the workers entered the 30-feet-long oil storage tank to clean it without even basic safety gear. There was no provision for oxygen in case of such an emergency, and they did not have masks to protect them from toxic fumes.
Sources told South First that, unable to bring the bodies out of the tanker, the management of the oil factory had to cut open a portion of it at the bottom to retrieve them.
What factory workers say
“One after the other, at least seven of our workers went into the tank to clean it. It’s a regular and periodic activity. One worker began shouting and banging the tank wall when he began to suffocate. Other workers rushed inside to save him and also started feeling suffocated,” one worker said.
“One of them was able to get out and alert the management, and a rescue attempt was launched. But it failed. After that we had cut open the tank at the bottom and brought them out. By then they were dead,” the factory worker added.
About the company
Ambati Subbanna & Company manufactures and markets edible oils like sesame oil, groundnut oil, and rice bran oil, among others. The firm sells its products under brand names such as AS Brand, Mansion, and Pooja.
The firm operates a sesame seed crushing unit in Samarlakota in the East Godavari district with an installed capacity of 5,250 MTPA. It operates another factory with huge storage tanks in G Ragampeta of Peddapuram, where the incident occurred.
The oil extracted from the seeds in the grinders at the factory is sent to huge oil containers where the filtration takes place. After filtration, the oils are stored in separate storage tanks. It was in one such storage tank that Thursday’s incident took place.
The deceased have been identified as Kurra Rama Rao, Vecchangi Krishna, Vecchangi Narasimha, Vechangi Sagar, Kurathadu Banjibabu, of Paderu, and Kattamuri Jagadeesh and Prasad belonging to the nearby Pulimeru village of Peddapuram mandal.
Kakinada District Collector Kritika Shukla reached the spot and ordered an inquiry into the incident.
TDP state unit president K Atchennaidu found fault with the government for the mishap, stating that negligence on the part of the authorities led to the seven deaths. He added that several such factory mishaps have been taking place across the state.