A blast at the Sethi Ferro Fabrik steel mill has injured seven employees, most of whom are Liberians.
Those injured included four Liberians and three expatriates. However, they are expected to survive, as they are currently receiving treatment at the JFK Medical Center for multiple injuries. The blast involved an induction furnace used to melt steel, and it took about 30 minutes to extinguish the resulting fire.
“The seven workers are seriously hurt with several injuries but non-life-threatening,” said Eric Bengar, chairman of the company’s workers union. “They were working in the furnace area when the blast occurred. The accident is the first of its kind at the factory and occurred after the cable of the magnet from the crane reportedly got cut, thus leading to the fire. The cause of the blast might have been due to an electrical shock from the crane.
“This is what we know so far,” Bengar continued, “but the investigation carried out by the government and the management will detail the actual cause of the fire. We are working with the management to provide additional moral and financial support to our colleagues who are going to be away for some time.”
The current health condition of the victims is not immediately available. However, the blast yesterday forced the steel factory to partially suspend operations according to workers with knowledge of the information. Though the factory management and employees said they have worked for years to prioritize workplace safety at the mill, steel factories pose many inherent hazards that include hot temperatures, catwalks over great heights, and moving extremely heavy equipment.
Dedicated in 2019 by President Weah, the Sethi Ferro Fabrik steel plant located in the LPRC area of Gardnersville Township, is the only steel manufacturing facility in Liberia, producing approximately 50 tons of steel materials daily.
The owners of the company, the Sethi Brothers, are one of Liberia’s long-standing business partners. The company uses scrap steel for the production of steel rods and other steel materials, and currently has in its employ 300 persons both Liberians and expatriates. The factory was constructed at a cost of US$22 million.
Meanwhile, the Company’s General Manager, Siafa Morgan, confirmed that there was an explosion and fire at the factory, which resulted in injuries of some workers, but declined to give further details or confirm any disruption of operations. He only said that the company would assess "the extent of repairs and impact on operations" later.
Morgan however confirmed that the injured employees were being treated at the JFK hospital with all the best medical care and support.
“We are doing everything humanly possible to give the victim the much-needed care and, at the same time, respond to their family needs in such a time. The incident is an unfortunate one that we regret and working to ratify it,” Morgan noted. “This was not something we expected,” he added. “However, the relevant government authorities have come in to investigate the matter. Also, we are working assiduously to give them all the best support during the recovery process.”
He remains tight-lipped, though, about the details of the actual cause of the blast, but promised to inform the public as soon as the government is done with its investigation.
“Investigation is ongoing to get clear pictures of the fire accident. Until then, I do not have much information on the actual cause of the blast. If I say so, I will be giving wrong information,” Morgan noted. At the hospital, the company’s senior management was spotted going in to visit the patients and to console them for the unfortunate accident. They were later seen chatting with the victims’ families as a means of committing the company’s moral and financial support.