The toll in a devastating fire at a wholesale cracker shop in Pallipat climbed to 32 on Saturday with recovery of two more bodies from the site, even as its owner and another man were arrested in connection with the Diwali-eve mishap.
The blaze erupted at the cracker godown, which was a wholesale point of firecrackers, at around 7 pm last evening
due to suspected short-circuit, police said.
Thirty-two badly charred bodies have been pulled out of the godown at the town, 90 kms from Chennai, Tiruvallur
District Collector Palani Kumar told reporters. Three more people were injured in the tragedy and are undergoing
treatment at a hospital near here.
Since most of the bodies are charred beyond recognition, authorities have appealed to the people in nearby villages,
especially in the neighbouring Chittor in Andhra Pradesh, to inform about any missing person.
Kumar said 23 people -- 20 from Andhra Pradesh and three from Tamil Nadu -- have complained to the tehsildar office
that their loved ones are missing since yesterday.
Majority of the victims are believed to be from Chitoor. Rescue operations have been completed, police said.
They said two persons -- Ananthakumar, the owner of the cracker shop and another person who owned the godown -- have
The bodies have been taken to the government hospital in nearby Tiruttani, police said, adding the toll was higher due
to the heavy rush on Diwali-eve.
Operations to retrieve the bodies were hampered due to the power failure in the area immediately after the incident.
Police said due to the power cut, there were more casualties as those trapped inside could not find a way out in darkness.
Meanwhile, local residents alleged that the owner had not obtained a valid licence to run the shop. They said a minor fire had broken out last year in a cracker shop run by him.
A pall of gloom has descended in the area after the mishap. Locals have abstained from celebrating Diwali as a
mark of respect to the deceased.