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Sunday, 11 November, 2001, 13:03 GMT
Steelworkers 'raised furnace fears'
Fire at Port Talbot steelworks following an explosion
The explosion claimed the lives of two steelworkers
The first minister met Corus officials last year to discuss safety fears in the Port Talbot steelworks furnace which exploded last week, it has emerged.

Rhodri Morgan was acting after steelworkers asked Plaid Cymru AM Janet Davies to raise the issue in the Welsh Assembly in March 2000.

Janet Davies AM, South Wales West
Janet Davies said safety concerns had not been noted
She has now criticised the government for failing to respond to the concerns at the giant plant, where the blast on Thursday killed two men.

"Eighteen month ago I asked the first minister to investigate rumours of lack of maintenance in the heavy duty plant," she said.

"There was a very, very real concern voiced to me about the condition of the number five blast furnace.

"The First Minister said he had also heard these concerns from workers at the plant.

"I challenge Mr Morgan to tell us all what action he took following this discussion."

Safety meeting

An assembly spokesperson has confirmed Mr Morgan met Corus representatives in April following Ms Davies's requests.

The company assured him maintenance was in hand.

The South Wales West member said the worries centred on the furnace in which the explosion took place.

She has now called on Corus - which must decide whether to rebuild the wrecked number five blast furnace - to commit itself to steel production in Port Talbot, safeguarding jobs in the area.

Conservative AM Alun Cairns, whose father was working at the plant during the explosion, has also claimed there have been numerous leakages of molten iron in the furnace in recent years.

But the company said the furnace was in good repair, routinely maintained and was not due to be re-lined until 2005.

Stephen Galsworthy
Stephen Galsworthy died in the explosion
Six men remain on life-support machines at Swansea's Morriston Hospital as inquiries continue into the cause of the explosion.

Members of the community are saying prayers at Port Talbot's St Theodore's Parish Church to reflect on their loss.

A minute's silence has been planned at the church for Thursday at 1717GMT - exactly a week after the blast - as the tight-knight town comes to terms with the tragedy.

Six men remain on life-support machines at Swansea's Morriston Hospital as inquiries continue into the cause of the explosion.

Stephen Galsworthy, 25, and Andrew Hutin, 20, died in the blast, which caused an escape of molten metal on Thursday.

On Saturday, their parents spoke of their devastation at the loss.

Sportsmen claimed

Stephen, who was described as a "gentle giant," was planning to marry girlfriend Clare Robbins, another Corus employee.

He had played international football for Wales at schoolboy level.

Andrew had earned Welsh rugby caps at Under-15 level and once played for Aberavon.

Four of the injured in the low-dependency section at Morriston Hospital's burns unit and one man is on a general ward.

Corus, South Wales Police and the Health and Safety Executive have all launched investigations into the incident.

Janet Davies AM
"The concerns were about number five blast furnace"
See also:

09 Nov 01 | Wales
Steelworker killed in explosion
16 Jun 00 | Wales
Steel jobs go at Port Talbot
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