Four workers were burnt alive in a major fire that broke out on Monday morning after two blasts in reactors of a chemical factory on the outskirts of Lalru, around 40 km from Chandigarh.
At least 15 workers were injured in the accident. Two charred bodies were found hanging from the windows of the factory, Dashmesh Medicare, located 10 km from Lalru town.
The condition of eight of the injured was said to be serious, as most of them had suffered 50% burns.
Of these patients, Kapin, Sunil and Chote Lal have been admitted to Inscol Hospital in Chandigarh's Sector 34, while five victims, namely Abdul Kadir, Sobindu, Ranbir, Sarbjit and Sunil, have been admitted to Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) in Sector 32.
The industrial accident comes two weeks after the building of a blanket-making factory collapsed in Jalandhar, killing at least 23 workers.
HOW IT HAPPENED
More than 30 workers were on duty on Monday when there was an explosion around 6.50am on the first floor of the chemical factory, which is a subsidiary of Chandigarh-based pharmaceutical firm, Ind-Swift.
As the fire spread, there was a second blast around 7.05am, possibly in another reactor. Around a dozen fire-tenders from Dera Bassi, Dappar Ammunition Depot, Nahar Group, SAS Nagar, Chandigarh and Ambala took nearly two-and-a-half hours to douse the fire. The fire-tenders used water from the ponds of nearby villages.
"Police have booked the factory owner and management under section 304 of the IPC (death caused by negligence)," senior superintendent of police (SAS Nagar) GPS Bhullar said.
Factory general manager Atul Chaubey said the reactor was operational at the time of the accident.
Initial reports suggested that the first blast was caused by a "static charge". However, according to sources linked with the probe, a safety valve of the reactor may have malfunctioned.
ONE DEAD IDENTIFIED
The injured workers were admitted to government and private hospitals in Dera Bassi town, 20 km from the blast site. Ten were later shifted to Chandigarh's GMCH-32, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Science and Research (PGIMER) and Inscol Hospital.
One of the dead was identified as Nirankar Singh, a resident of Gurgaon. The bodies have been kept at Dera Bassi civil hospital. Senior medical officer JK Bansal said if the remaining three bodies could not be identified within two days, DNA tests would be carried out.
Chief parliamentary secretary NK Sharma, Mohali deputy commissioner Varun Roojam and sub-divisional magistrate Inderjit Kaur Kang visited the accident site.
Roojam announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh each to the families of the dead and Rs 50,000 to each injured.
Chaubey said the company would give Rs 5 lakh to relatives of the deceased and employment to one family member. An amount equal to the deceased worker's last drawn salary will be given to the family till his retirement age. The company has also announced Rs 1 lakh compensation to the injured.
REACTOR PIECES SCATTERED IN 600-YARD RADIUS
The blast was so big that it was easily heard even at a distance of 6 km, and so powerful that the pieces of reactors were found spread in fields up to a distance of 600 yards. The 50-kg cover of the reactor was also found nearly 300 yards away from the spot. Due to high temperature and explosions, the building structure also got badly damaged.