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15 burnt alive in GAIL pipeline blast in Andhra Pradesh

HYDERABAD: Fifteen villagers were burnt to death and 30 injured on Friday as a huge fire and deafening explosions caused by a suspected leak engulfed a GAIL gas pipeline in Andhra Pradesh, officials said.

The central government ordered a probe and announced ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh each to the next of kin of those killed. As flames several meters high leapt from the pipeline passing through Nagaram village in East Godavari district, several of the villagers jolted out of sleep by the blasts failed to escape the blaze.

The dead include three women and three children. Officials said the fatalities could rise as the condition of 15 of the injured was said to be critical.

The fire, caused by suspected leakage from the 18-inch pipeline of GAIL India Ltd, devastated the village near the Tatipaka refinery of the Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), about 550 km from Hyderabad.

“The fire caused massive losses. Coconut trees and other crops in over 10 acres were reduced to ashes,” said Finance Minister Y Ramakrishnudu. Most villagers were asleep when the disaster struck. Fire tenders rushed to the village to douse the flames.

The dead include the owner of a hotel and five of his family members. Angry villagers attacked the Gas Collection Station near the village and damaged a few vehicles.

People standing near coconut trees burnt in GAIL gas leak fire in Nagaram village near Rajahmundry in East Godavari district.

President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi joined leaders of Andhra Pradesh to express grief over the deaths.