Toxic Trade News / 17 February 2006
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9 hurt as ship catches fire at Alang...
by The Times of India (India)
17 February 2006 (Alang) – At least nine people were injured when a French ship caught fire while being dismantled at the ship-breaking yard here on Friday.

As fate would have it, the accident happened on a day when the Supreme Court directed the Central government to ensure a safer working environment for the ship-breakers, in the wake of the controversy over 'Le Clemenceau'.

The 19,000-tonne French passenger vessel 'Chinese Sea Discoverer' caught fire at 1.30 pm and several persons who were trapped inside the ship were rescued by 6.30 pm.

The fire reportedly started in the engine room and rescue work by fire-brigade personnel and workers from nearby plots were hampered because of high tide as the ship was beached 300 feet away from the shore.

The workers' injuries were not serious in nature and all the victims were discharged by evening. Some labourers jumped from the ship and managed to swim to safety, said sources.

According to Haresh Parmar, secretary of Alang Ship Breaking Yard Association, the ship is owned by Mahavir Indecto Melt Pvt Ltd situated on Plot No V-5. The owner of the company, Kishore Bansal, could not be contacted.

The accident could not have come at a more inopportune time for the Gujarat government, which had been strongly campaigning for the breaking down of the asbestos-lined 'Clemenceau' in Alang despite environmental concerns expressed by Greenpeace.

The incident happened a day after the warship on recalled on Thursday following orders from the highest court in France.

A senior ports department official said, "Any accident of this kind would make it difficult for us to revive the ship-breaking yard which is suffering its worst recession."

Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) chief executive office HK Dash said, "However small the incident, it does dent the image. We have asked the ports officer at Alang to find out the cause of the accident."

Asked whether the workers were using the necessary safety gear, Dash said, "We will find that out after the investigation."

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