At least two persons were killed and about two dozen others injured when a a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanker caught fire due to leakage in Greater Noida late on Thursday night. A number of vehicles were damaged in the incident.
Unconfirmed reports put the death toll at four.
Police said an HP gas container was returning after being emptied when the driver lost control of the vehicle, which hit a divider near an inland container depot (ICD) of the Container Corporation (Concor) of India at Tilapta village in Dadri-Surajpur area. This led to leakage of leftover gas. A fire broke out, causing the explosion.
Police said the tanker did not belong to Concor.
Greater Noida superintendent of police (SP) Ashok Kumar said, "There were sparks because of the collision. As the tanker was leaking, fire broke out immediately."
Two persons in the vicinity were killed and many others injured as a ball of fire spread across a radius of 300 metres and engulfed nearby trees, vehicles and slum dwellings.
On getting information at 11pm, officials dispatched 15 fire tenders, including some from adjoining towns, to the spot. Even private agencies were roped in to control the rapidly-spreading blaze.
Firemen managed to control the fire by 1.30am. But the fire in the vehicle could not be put out immediately as there was gas in it. The situation could be completely brought under control by 4am. Two fire tenders remained stationed at the spot till 6am as a precaution.
Greater Noida fire station officer Matloob Hasan told Hindustan Times on Friday, "The impact of the fire caused by gas is 250 times greater as it spreads in the air rapidly. Two persons were killed on the spot. Three critically injured were rushed to a Delhi hospital."
"Around half-a-dozen persons suffered injuries. They were discharged after giving first aid. Around 20 other persons suffered minor injuries but they need not be hospitalised,” said Hasan.
Sub-divisional magistrate (Dadri) Rajesh Kumar Yadav told HT on Friday evening: "We confirm two deaths. Four persons sustained injuries. The tanker owner will pay compensation to the victims."
"However, if the deceased are farmers and own at least 50 square metres of land here, the state government will pay R5 lakh as relief. Besides, R2,000 will be provided to each family affected from the chief minister's relief fund."
Also, district magistrate MKS Sundaram announced a relief of R1 lakh each to families of the deceased and R20,000 each to the injured. The victims are either drivers or conductors who were near or inside their vehicles.
A victim, Subhash Yadav said, "I was passing by when a piece of glass from the windowpanes of a burning vehicle suddenly hit me from behind. I have injuries behind my neck and in arms."
Poor disaster management
Due to a poor disaster management mechanism, chaos reigned for several hours and thousands of passengers remained stranded on the Noida-Dadri stretch due to traffic jams.
Eyewitnesses said doctors arrived at the site but without equipment, which delayed medical aid to the injured.
Because of poor traffic management, several other vehicles also came in contact with fire. Fire tenders called from Ghaziabad and Sikandrabad also got stuck in traffic jams, which halted rescue operations.
"The area is accident-prone. Though the Noida-Dadri road is wide enough, it narrows down at the drain bridge," said AB Pandey, fire station officer.