Govt orders inquiry into Sivakasi fire, under Section 9 (a) of the Explosives Act 1884
Rs 1.13 crore allocated for establishing a burns ward at the Sivakasi hospital. Twelve arrests made so far
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has ordered an inquiry into Wednesday’s blast that started the inferno at a private firework manufacturing unit at a private fireworks unit at Mudalipatti, near Sivakasi, even as the police arrested 12 persons. The probe by the District Revenue Officer would go into how the factory continued to function on September 5, a day after its licence was cancelled, and the cause of the blast, an official release said.
The state government has also allocated Rs1.13 crore for establishing a burns ward at the Sivakasi government hospital. The plans include starting an intensive care unit, an operation theatre, a plastic surgery unit, an orthopedic unit, a physiotherapy unit and a rehabilitation centre. The hospital’s bed strength will be doubled to 60 and make the burns ward a centre of excellence under the control of the Madurai Medical College Hospital. A total of Rs 4.50 crore will be earmarked, the release said.
The Virudhunagar Collector has been directed to make an immediate inspection of all cracker units. These decisions were taken at a meeting chaired by the Chief Minister to discuss preventive measures. The factory obtained licence from the Chief Controller of Explosives, Nagpur, in 2006. An inspection on August 28 by the Deputy Chief Controller of Explosives, Sivakasi, pointed to many deviations: chemical products were stored in excess of the permissible levels and there were more employees than allowed. Also, the space meant for safety purposes was encroached upon.
Citing these violations, the official, on Tuesday 4 September, had ordered revocation of the licence. A copy of the order was received by the Collector the next day, the release said.
Taking serious note of the fire, which occurred a day after the licence of Om Sakthi Fireworks Industries was cancelled, Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma has ordered an inquiry into the whole incident.
The inquiry will be conducted by Chaitanya Prasad, IAS, under Section 9 (a) of the Explosives Act 1884, says an official statement. Three officers of the Deputy Chief Controller of Explosives, Sivakasi field office, have been at the accident spot — at Mudalipatti — since Wednesday. The Chief Controller of Explosives and the Joint Controller reached there on Thursday and are preparing a report on the accident.
Police arrest 5 in relation to the Sivakasi fire
The accident, which has claimed 39 lives so far, took place in a fireworks factory, which had lost its licence only two days before the fire
Five persons were arrested on Thursday in connection to the devastating fire at a cracker manufacturing unit at Mudhalipatti near Sivakasi, even as the toll mounted to 39.The arrested were four persons who had taken the Omshakthi fireworks factory complex, where the fire broke out, on lease and its foreman, police said.
The condition of over 40 of the 70 people injured was stated to be serious in various hospitals. The licence of the factory was suspended only two days before the accident and the products had been stored in a godown against rules, officials said.
The fire that broke out was so intense that the factory and 48 sheds in the complex exploded in flames, trapping many in the raging inferno. A factory official said 300 persons were at work at the unit at the time of the mishap.
Thirty-nine persons, including two women, most of them believed to be villagers who rushed to the site of explosion at a cracker unit, were killed when a large stock of explosives blew up on Wednesday afternoon. Thirty-three persons were wounded and have been admitted to government hospitals in Virudhunagar district and Madurai.
The tragedy took place at Mudalipatti, 13 km from Sivakasi, a region known for frequent accidents in the match and fireworks industries.
Though no bodies were found on the premises of Om Sakthi Fireworks Industries during the initial search by police and revenue officials, the death toll was confirmed after the removal of concrete sheds of at least three working areas that were flattened in the impact of the explosion. With earthmovers not reaching the site early, rescue work could not be taken up till 6.30 pm.
The first explosion at the unit, one of the biggest in the region, was reported at 12.20 pm. Villagers of Mudalipatti and workers of a nearby blue metal crusher unit rushed to the spot. A small posse of policemen tried to prevent the villagers from entering the unit, but the 500-strong crowd managed to get past the police. “Our inspector Raja tried to stop them but they did not heed his words,” said Virudhunagar Superintendent of Police Najmul Hoda.
“Unexpectedly, there was a huge explosion around 1 pm and the debris that flew across a wide distance injured them seriously,” District Revenue Officer R. Raju, who was at the site, said. Crackers and unfinished goods were seen strewn for more than a half-km radius at the entrance. “A huge stone hit the jeep of the Virudhunagar Tahsildar some 500 metres away from the cracker unit.”
Details of the number of workers employed and those present at the time of the incident were not available with officials. Even the police and firemen did not enter the premises for some time on seeing the bodies and the grievous nature of the injuries. Ten fire tenders, including some from Tirunelveli, Tuticorin and Madurai districts, were parked in a serpentine queue outside the accident site. The first one entered the unit only at 3.30 pm after the entrance was cleared of debris.
35 killed, 78 injured in a fire at fireworks unit in Sivakasi
Injured taken to hospitals in Sivakasi and Madurai; CM Jayalalithaa announces solatium for the victims, asks minsters to oversee relief work
At least 35 persons were killed and 78 injured on Wednesday 5 September in a fire at a private firecracker unit in the fireworks industry hub of Sivakasi, police officials and firefighters said. The injured have been admitted in hospitals in Sivakasi and the severely injured have been shifted to hospitals in Madurai, 75 kms from Sivakasi.
The fire broke out at Om Sakthi fireworks on Wednesday morning and the inferno was fast spreading to nearby buildings. It took firefighters almost five hours and 50 fire trucks to douse the fire. Police officer P Karupaiah said that the cause of the fire at the factory on the outskirts of Sivakasi was yet unknown.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has announced a solatium of Rs 2 lakh to the families of the deceased, Rs 50,000 to those who have suffered major burn injuries and Rs 25,000 to those who suffered minor injuries. Condoling the death of the victims, she has deputed five ministers to oversee the relief measures. State Governor K Rosiah also condoled the deaths.
Fire accidents in fireworks factory in and around Sivakasi, also famous for the printing industry, had been occurring frequently as most of the factories do not adhere to safety standards while stocking raw materials used in making the firecrackers. These factories also employ children and women and a lot of similar incidents are reported, especially during Diwali.
Last year alone, 15 accidents were reported in Sivakasi in which at least 25 people were killed. Wednesday’s mishap is being said to be the biggest in recent years.
Ramaswamy is a freelance journalist based in Chennai.