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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

23 killed in Batala firecracker unit blast

cities Updated: Sep 05, 2019 01:45 IST
Surjit Singh and Vishal Sally
Surjit Singh and Vishal Sally
Hindustantimes
         

BATALA At least 23 persons were killed and 27 others injured in a blast at an illegal firecracker factory located in a residential area near St Francis School at Guru Ram Das Colony on Jalandhar road here on Wednesday afternoon. Seven of the injured persons are critical and undergoing treatment at Guru Nanak Dev Hospital, a unit of Government Medical College, Amritsar.

Several people were feared trapped under the debris of the factory building and rescue workers were looking for survivors when last report came in. The explosion also damaged vehicles parked nearby.

The mishap occurred when the town was gearing up to celebrate the 532nd wedding anniversary of Guru Nanak, an annual festivity locally known as ‘Babe da viah’.

The blast was so powerful that it brought down the two-storey structure housing the factory, besides the three adjoining shops. The firecracker unit was on the ground floor and seven members of a family that lived on the first floor were among the dead. The blast shattered windowpanes of buildings comprising houses and commercial establishments spread over 200 metre radius.

Owner of the firecracker unit — Mattu Patakha Works — Goli Mattu was also among those killed in the incident. The administration was in the process of identifying all those killed in the incident.

According to nearby residents, they heard a deafening sound around 3.45pm, followed by a milder explosion minutes later. The blast, locals said, flung around bodies of workers, some found metres away in the nearby Hansli drain.

Satpal Singh, a labourer, who works in an adjoining garage said he had gone across the road to fetch tea for his colleagues when the explosion took place. “When I heard the sound, I rushed to spot and was shocked to see the bodies lying around. I then joined the nearby residents in carrying out the rescue operation,” he said.

Batala SDM, Balbir Raj Singh said the exact cause behind the blast is not clear yet, but there was a lot of explosive material in the factory.

Gurdaspur deputy commissioner Vipul Ujwal and SSP Opinderjit Singh Ghumman were at the site to oversee rescue operations. Fire tenders and teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) were deployed for the rescue operation.

CM ORDERS MAGISTERIAL PROBE

Chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident, which will be led by Batala additional deputy commissioner. Amarinder also directed the rural development and panchayats minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa to rush to the spot to oversee the relief and rescue operation.

The CM also announced a ex gratia grant of ₹2 lakh to the kin of the dead and ₹ 50,000 for the seven severely injured, and ₹25,000 for those with minor injuries.

NO LESSONS LEARNT

On January 21, 2017, a blast at the same factory had killed a person and left three others seriously injured. Following this incident, the local administration had ordered the cancellation of factory’s licence, but the unit was still operational in the residential locality.

First Published: Sep 05, 2019 01:45 IST

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