Wales

Steel plant explosion: Review call after Port Talbot blast

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Media captionThe blast was caught on CCTV

The sound of an explosion at Port Talbot's Tata steelworks in the early hours of Friday woke people living up to 14 miles away.

A train carrying molten metal was the source of the blast. Two people were "slightly" hurt after a spillage of liquid iron caused fires.

It happened at about 03:30 BST and dozens of calls were made to emergency services.

Just four hours later, the plant reopened.

The steelworks is one of the town's largest employers, with 4,000 workers.

There has been steel produced on the site since 1902 with the height of the production during the 1960s.

But the very nature of steel making is dangerous. Molten metal, gasses and large heavy machinery is part of the working day for many on shift.

And sometimes things go wrong.

Image copyright Family photos
Image caption Stephen Galsworthy, Andrew Hutin and Len Radford were killed in the blast on 8 November 2001

Friday morning's blast would no doubt have evoked memories of an incident at the site nearly 20 years ago when at 17:00 on 8 November 2001 three men died.

The explosion at blast furnace number five killed 20-year-old Andrew Hutin, Stephen Galsworthy, 25, and Len Radford, 53.

Twelve others were seriously injured when the furnace was lifted off its base and blasted out 200 tonnes of steel slag and hot gasses.

The explosion was caused by leaking water building up inside the furnace.

For some, the latest explosion brought memories of 2001 flooding back.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The 2001 explosion, when the steelworks was operated by Corus, killed three people

Craig Williams, who lives nearby and was woken by the explosion, said: "My father was working at the steel works back then and this morning my first feeling was utter dread.

"Back then I was 16 and my first thought was 'was my father ok?'

"This town revolves around that steelworks so when something like this happens, we feel it as a town, all of us do, because we've all got friends and family who have worked there or involved there in some way."

In 2006, Kevin Downey, who was hailed as a hero for his actions in the furnace number five explosion, died after falling into molten waste.

And two workers were injured in two separate incidents in 2012.

In March of that year, a man was taken to hospital with superficial burns after an incident at the plant.

In August a man was badly injured after he became trapped and was airlifted to University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The steelworks in Port Talbot on 9 November 2001, the day after three men perished in an explosion

Now there are calls from Aberavon's MP Stephen Kinnock and AM David Rees for a full review into the latest incident.

Mr Kinnock said the incident "raises real concerns about safety at the works".

"It could have been a lot worse. Grateful as always to the emergency services for their rapid and effective response," he wrote on Twitter.

Mr Rees added: "There are many questions this morning from employees and residents about what happened that caused such an explosion that affected so many households in the Port Talbot and neighbouring communities.

"It is important that we find out what happened, why it happened and what must now be done to avoid future such incidents."

Tata Steel said Friday's explosion came from a train used to carry molten metal, but the fires at the plant were now out and all employees had been accounted for.

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