Chief minister J Jayalalithaa ordered a magisterial probe into the Sivakasi cracker factory blaze on Thursday, as the toll climbed to 39 and police arrested 12 of the 13 accused in the case.
She also ordered that immediate steps be taken to prevent a similar incident in the run-up to Diwali.
Wednesday’s blaze at the Om Shakti fireworks — a result of rampant violation of safety norms — had also left 70 people injured.
But its owner, Murugesan, is yet to be caught.
A manhunt has been launched across the state to trace him, said Najmal Huda, superintendent of police, Virudhunagar. The arrested have been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Among those arrested is Paul Pandi, who had taken the factory on lease and was running it, Huda said.
The factory’s licence had been suspended on Tuesday following an inspection by the officials of Sivakasi-based explosives control department.
Its violations included overstocking of chemicals and employment of a large workforce.
Jayalalithaa expressed surprise on how the factory was working despite the suspension of its licence.
She asked officials to carry out a series of inspections to ensure that all safety norms are being followed.
Later, she said in a statement, “I have ordered a magisterial inquiry into the operation of the firecracker unit, the date of the cancellation of its licence and the cause of the accident.”
The firecracker unit had been issued a licence by Nagpur’s Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation in 2006.