Hyderabad, June 27 :
14 people were burnt to death and scores of others injured in a huge explosion and fire that took place at a GAIL gas pipeline in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh early Friday morning, officials said.
The dead include three women and three children while about 30 people were injured. The death toll may rise as the condition of 15 of them is said to be critical.
State Finance Minister Y. Ramakrishnudu told reporters that 14 people were killed and many others were injured when the fire broke out around 5.30 a.m. in Nagaram village in Mamidikuduru mandal of the coastal district.
The minister said: “The fire caused massive losses. Coconut trees and other crops in over 10 acres were reduced to ashes.”
The injured were shifted to hospitals at Amalapuram and Kakinada towns.
The blast rocked the 18-inch pipeline of state-owned Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) near Tatipaka refinery of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), about 550 km from Hyderabad.
GAIL officials said the cause of the fire would be known only after a thorough probe.
They said Rescue and relief operations were underway at the blast site.
The huge flames leaping out of the pipeline damaged houses and shops near the blast site. The villagers ran out of their houses in panic as the fire accompanied by loud blasts engulfed a large area.
Local police officials said fire tenders brought the blaze control.
Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu is cutting short his visit to Delhi and rushing to the accident site. He along with senior officials will be landing at Rajahmundry airport, about 90 km from the blast site.
Naidu expressed grief at the loss of lives in the GAIL pipeline explosion. “He reviewed the situation with district collector and senior officials from Delhi,” said an official statement.
Naidu directed Deputy Chief Minister N. Chinna Rajappa to rush to the blast site to monitor rescue and relief operations.
Rajappa, who is also the home minister, asked district officials to take all measures to provide relief to the injured.
Union Minister for Urban Development M. Venkaiah Naidu apprised Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the incident. He also spoke to officials of the petroleum ministry.
YSR Congress party chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy expressed shock and grief over the accident. He demanded best medicare to the injured and a probe into the incident.