38 die in cracker unit fire
By Express News Service - VIRUDHUNAGAR/MADURAI
06th September 2012 07:48 AM
At least 38 people perished and over 60 injured, three of them critically, in one of the worst fire tragedies in Om Sakthi Fireworks, a private cracker manufacturing unit in Mudhalipatti in Virudhanagar Taluk on Wednesday. The toll is likely to mount considering that some of those hospitalised had suffered third degree burn injuries. At least 35 sustained serious injuries.
Most victims were curious onlookers who had rushed to the site to witness fireworks that were accidentally set off due to friction between chemicals at one of the sheds in the factory at 11.30 a.m. Only two workers were engaged in work at the particular shed.
However, within 30 minutes of the first accident in which casualties were supposedly nil, the fire spread to the neighbouring sheds in which explosive materials for manufacturing fancy crackers were stocked. Soon the fancy crackers flew in all directions and set off another explosion in a chemicals storeroom trapping the onlookers. A thick blanket of smoke billowing up to a height of 15 to 20 feet that engulfed the surroundings prevented rescue operations. At last count 37 bodies were identified. Some of the deceased were believed to have been suffocated.
As news of the tragedy spread, a pall of gloom descended on the district which houses Sivakasi. All cracker units in the region are busy manufacturing fireworks for the upcoming Deepavali season. The injured have been admitted to the Government Hospital in Virudhunagar. Four persons succumbed to injuries at the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai. “The proprietor of Om Sakthi Fireworks, Murugesan, had engaged about 220 workers, including migrant labourers, for manufacturing fancy crackers. We are yet to ascertain whether the factory’s licence is in order,” a senior police officer said.
However, a notice put up by the company on its premises, said its “manufacturing capacity is 1075 kilogram and valid up to 31.3.2008.” It is learnt that officials of the Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation who recently inspected the factory had found violations and instructed the management to remove the explosive materials used for making fancy crackers from the factory.
Kattanarpatti panchayat chief S Mariamman claimed that people from neighbouring villages rushed to witness the accident without heeding warnings.
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