Employees of a rotational molding business in Ahamadabad, India, had a lucky escape when much of the area was devastated by a powerful earthquake Jan. 26.
The massive temblor, with a magnitude of 7.7, was expected to have claimed an estimated 25,000 lives. It struck in the country's industrial heartland in the western state of Gujarat.
A handful of staff at the downtown Ahamadabad office of Saeplast India Pvt. Ltd., owned by Saeplast Inc. of Dalvik, Iceland, were evacuated uninjured, according to Steinthor Olafsson, president of the parent company. Few were at work because the disaster occurred early on Republic Day, a national public holiday.
Saeplast India's 3-year-old plant, located about 40 miles from the city center, was saved from major damage but still was closed a week after the quake. The 1,000-square-foot facility has one Indian-built rotomolding line that makes large polyethylene fish tubs. Communications were down last week and the Saeplast workers have joined the massive rescue effort, Olafsson said.
It took Olafsson more than a day to receive news of the Saeplast operation and its 25 employees. He eventually got through by cellular phone.
"It was the safety of our people and managing director that was foremost in my mind when the earthquake happened. It was quite a relief when we realized they were safe," said Olafsson, whose group also runs Canadian fish and meat container rotomolder Saeplast Canada Ltd. of St. John's, New Brunswick.
Olafsson said the single-level plant was not constructed specifically to withstand a quake, but it was well-constructed, meeting European standards.
He expects communications and transportation problems to continue disrupting production at the rotomolding plant when it eventually reopens, perhaps in early February.
In Canada, Saeplast just invested nearly C$1 million (US$670,000) to install a new Ferry rotomolding machine. The business operates two molding lines, producing transit containers mainly for the Canadian and U.S. markets.
"There is increasing demand for all our products, with business growing in the U.S. as well as Canada, and we are not able to meet all our customer demands. We are concentrating on serving the chicken and meat areas," said Olafsson.
Saeplast is examining the possibility of launching a new rotomolding operation across the border in the United States, Olafsson said.
Saeplast acquired the former Dynoplast Canadian operation and Dynoplast's Salangen, Norway, plant in June 1999. Both businesses were purchased from buyout firm CVC Capital Partners Europe Ltd. of London, which had acquired the complete plastics business of Dyno Industrier ASA of Oslo, Norway, in 1998.