Production has returned to normal at one of the UK’s largest steelworks, where two workers were injured following a large explosion.
An investigation into the cause of the incident at Tata Steel’s integrated works at Port Talbot in the early hours of Friday is under way after the outbreak of fires caused by molten metal coming into contact with cold water on a railway track.
The explosion and fire, which could be heard up to 15 miles away, lit up the nearby town in south Wales and caused residents’ houses to shake. Some feared a repeat of the tragedy in 2001 in which three men died.
Stephen Davies, a Unite union representative for the site, said the two injured men had been on the train carrying molten metal and suffered superficial burns in the incident, one to the back of his head and the other to his chest.
Tata’s UK hub director of strip products, Martin Brunnock, said: “Congratulations should be paid to the teams who have worked with dedication and professionalism to ensure all operations could restart in a little more than 24 hours after the incident. We have worked closely with the Health & Safety Executive on site throughout the recovery programme.”
A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive said inspectors had already visited the site and that their own investigation was under way.
A spokesman for Tata said on Friday: “Shortly after 3.30am there was an incident at our Port Talbot site involving a spillage of molten iron.
“Two of our employees suffered minor injuries and both have been released following treatment. The spillage led to a number of fires which were extinguished by our own emergency services supported by members of the Mid and West Wales fire and rescue service. Police and ambulance also attended.
“We are currently investigating the cause of the incident and are looking to minimise any impact on production.” Work at the site recommenced around 7am and supplies to customers had remained uninterrupted.
Lance Davies, who witnessed the explosion, said it was a miracle no one was killed. “I was woken up by what sounded like thunder,” he said. “I went to the window and could see the results of the first explosion, then I called my partner and saw the other two.
“It was like a scene from Independence Day. A big ball of flame, followed by a massive mushroom of smoke. It was unbelievable.”
Sharon Freeguard, a Neath Port Talbot councillor, said: “I thought I heard about two to three explosions. It was extremely frightening … The house just shook, so it was quite alarming. We’re just all relieved that there are no fatalities.”
In 2001, three men were killed and 12 injured in a blast at the plant, then owned by Corus.