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Rashtriya Ispat Plant Fire Kills 9 People, May Delay Expansion

A fire at Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd.’s steel plant in southern India yesterday killed nine workers and will probably delay expansion plans at the nation’s second-largest state-owned producer of the alloy.

“There was a fire at the factory and unfortunately there were casualties,” D.R.S. Chaudhary, India’s steel secretary, said today in a telephone interview.

Rashtriya Ispat, in which the government plans to sell a 10 percent stake, is in the process of doubling capacity to 6.3 million metric tons at a cost of $2.2 billion. It operates a factory in Visakhapatnam in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

The fire was caused by an explosion outside the new oxygen unit, which was in the process of being commissioned as part of the company’s expansion plans, Chairman and Managing Director A.P. Choudhary said today in a phone interview. The existing steel unit is operational, he said.

The accident will cause “some” delays in the expansion scheduled to be completed in the year ending March 31, Choudhary said.

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