Pipe factory blast kills six workers

A powerful explosion, apparently caused by gas cylinders, killed six workers at a pipe construction company yesterday and injured another three. The accident occurred at 10.40 a.m. at the Corinth Pipeworks, 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) west of Corinth. The fire department was investigating the causes of the blast and Supreme Court prosecutor Evangelos Kroustallakis ordered an inquiry. Some workers said the blast occurred while three of those who were killed were replacing an oxygen cylinder. Others said that an acetylene cylinder exploded. The blast was so powerful that it blew off parts of the roof, spread debris over a radius of 200 meters and injured people 50 meters away. «We could not even identify three of the bodies, we could not understand which of our colleagues had been killed,» one worker said. «One of them kept burning for a long time. We used five fire extinguishers and they did nothing. The shock wave was very powerful. Thank God the roof blew off and allowed the blast to go upward, otherwise we would have had more victims.» Labor inspectors, who last checked the plant a month ago, had repeatedly found safety problems and fined the company. From 2000 to 2003 there were 18 minor accidents among the factory’s 200 workers. «This was not a crime of negligence, it was premeditated,» declared General Confederation of Greek Labor President Christos Polyzogopoulos. Police arrested factory manager Antonis Periyialotis, shift boss Costas Sarmas, electrical maintenance chief Panayiotis Louskos, production chief Costas Maniatis and security director Costas Papachristopoulos. They are to appear before a prosecutor today. The dead were listed as Pavlos Yiannou, 45, Sotiris Voriniotis, 56, Christos Kyrilis, 42, Costas Athanassiou, 40, Costas Spyridou, 32, and Evangelos Poulis, 42. Stavros Stavropoulos, 47, suffered leg injuries and two others had lighter injuries. None of them was a specially trained welder. The government expressed its grief and promised a full investigation. The Communist Party called it a «new crime» and accused the government of «turning greater productivity into the highest good.»