One person was killed and 20 injured in a major fire in Uran, Navi Mumbai, following an explosion in a container yard on Wednesday afternoon.
Of the 20, six were injured seriously, while the others sustained minor injuries.
The incident occurred around 2pm at Maersk’s Container Freight Station (CFS) Annex in Navghar village. The CFS is a storage place for imported consignments, brought in containers after they arrive at JNPT.
“There was a chemical combustion in one of the plastic drums, which resulted in an explosion that could be heard several kilometres away. The fire then spread to the other containers, which also had chemicals in them. More than 35 containers must have been destroyed in the fire,” said Mohan Naik, station officer, City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd.
Naik added that they were not aware which chemicals were stored there, as the authorities have not informed them yet.
More than 15 fire tenders were used to douse the fire. However, fire brigade officials could control it by late evening. “Though the fire is under control now, we don’t know how long it will take us to douse it,” said Naik.
The deceased has been identified as Deepak Popatlal. While some said that he was an assistant technician, others said that he was a customs house agent. However, no one from Maersk confirmed his name and designation.
The injured persons are in the age group of 25-35 years and are mostly labourers.
We have registered an accidental death report as of now but we will start investigating into whether there was negligence, a sabotage or an accident once the fire is doused,” said senior police inspector Arun Avati.
The incident agitated the workers, who alleged that the yard did not follow adequate safety measures. They said that last year, a Maersk yard had been gutted in a fire.
“It is a multinational company and it has not bothered to tell us how many workers have died or are injured. Fire safety measures have not been implemented. There is no private ambulance of the company nor are there hospitals nearby,” said Mangesh Bhoir, a worker who took the injured to the hospital.
Prakash Ghodekar, a custom house agent, added: “The customs had told them not to store hazardous chemicals but they managed to needle their way out. They stack up everything together, irrespective of their content. Hazardous chemicals should be stored in open spaces and there should be considerable distance between the containers. All these procedures were not followed.”