Steelworkers are deeply saddened that three men died at the Corus plant in Port Talbot, South Wales, last week. Stephen Galsworthy, 26, and Andrew Hutin, 20, died instantly when tons of molten iron which was superheated to 1,000 degrees centigrade burst through the walls of the plant's number five furnace. Another man, in his fifties, died later.
Five other steelworkers are on life support machines, and five others were seriously injured. A Corus spokesman said, 'I could not give a guarantee that this will not happen again.'
Furnace number five was over half a century old and had shown many problems. Stephen's relatives said, 'There had been trouble with the furnace all day.' A maintenance team were working at the furnace just before the deadly blast.
One steelworker told the Mirror, 'Furnace five was a ticking timebomb-it is too old and too dangerous.' Only a few hours before the explosion happened, the South Wales Evening Post ran a story, headlined '3,000 Fear For Jobs', about the Port Talbot plant. It reported that an £80 million programme to replace furnace six had been abandoned.
Instead there was going to be a £500,000 refit of furnace five to keep it going until 2005. Everyone knows there have been problems with furnace five. Corus is in the middle of a cost-cutting, job-slashing programme. Relining the number five furnace completely would have cost the company £30 million. Patching and mending was much cheaper.
Three days after the Port Talbot blast, a court fined Corus £300,000 over an incident in which a contractor was paralysed after an explosion at its Llanwern plant, also in Wales.