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Six killed in Himachal illegal firecracker factory blast

Updated on Feb 23, 2022 12:36 AM IST

12 injured in incident that occurred around noon at the unit at Bathu-Bathri in Haroli sub division of Una district

A factory worker injured in the blast in Himachal Pradesh’s Una on Tuesday. (HT Photo)

Six people, including a girl, were killed and 14 injured in an explosion at an illegal firecracker factory at Bathu-Bathri in the Tahliwal industrial area of Haroli sub division, 23km from Una district, of Himachal Pradesh on Tuesday.

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The incident occurred at 11.30am. The victims, mostly women, are migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh and lived in the nearby Santoshgarh (also called Santokhghar) town. The toll could rise as 11 of the injured are in a critical condition and have been shifted to PGIMER, Chandigarh, official sources said.

First responders and a fire tender reached the spot soon after the blast and the blaze has been contained. The injured were rushed to Sian Hospital at Bathri from where they were referred to the Regional Hospital at Una.

The reason of the blast is yet to be ascertained.

PM announces 2 lakh relief for victims

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the loss of lives in the incident and announced 2 lakh each as relief to the next of kin of those killed.

2 lakh each from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) will be given to the next of kin of those who lost their lives in the tragic factory mishap in Himachal Pradesh. 50,000 will be given to the injured,” the PM tweeted.

Magisterial probe ordered

Meanwhile, deputy commissioner Raghav Sharma has ordered a magisterial probe into the incident, which will be headed by sub-divisional magistrate of Haroli. The raw material stored on the premises of the factory where the blast took place.

The raw material stored on the premises of the factory where the blast took place. (HT Photo)

“We have also intimated the controller of explosives and the probe will be conducted under their supervision as they have the technical expertise in handling and storage of explosives,” Sharma said.

Search on for absconding owner

Sharma and superintendent of police Arjit Sen Thakur also reached the spot.

Thakur said that the factory was not registered with the industries department and was being run illegally and facts were being verified with the industry department.

A search is on for the absconding owner.

A migrant worker, identified as Abrar, whose mother and sister are among the victims, said: “Nobody knows what happened. The owner of the premises has fled. There were no safety measures or equipment to protect workers from such incidents.”

The factory started functioning about three months ago but locals, including the panchayat representative, didn’t know that it was a firecracker manufacturing unit and were under impression that the premises was rented out for residential purpose.

The police have seized raw material used to make firecrackers from the premises.

An eyewitness, Rajender Singh, said that the premises was mostly closed from outside and residents were not aware that it was being used as a cracker factory.

Owner’s identity yet to be ascertained

The victims don’t know much about the owner of the premises. One of the injured, Parveen, said the blast took place in a shed where some workers were mixing chemicals which caused a fire.

Another woman, Farah, identified the owner as Gulfam and the supervisor as Sharma, both of them non-Himachalis, who are now absconding.

Fixing responsibility a priority

Village pradhan Surekha Rana said the owners did not obtain any no-objection certificate from the panchayat. “We don’t even know what was being manufactured here. Earlier, they used to manufacture weighbridges here and may have illegally shifted to the firecracker business,” she said. Zila parishad member Kamal Saini said the premises’ owner used illegal electricity connection (kundi) to steal electricity for the unit.

Himachal Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation (HPSIDC) vice-chairman Ram Kumar Sharma termed the incident unfortunate and painful. “The state government will investigate the matter and whoever is responsible will be brought to book,” he said, adding that the responsibility of the departments concerned will also be fixed.

Thakur expresses grief

Chief minister Jai Ram Thakur expressed grief over the tragedy and directed the district administration to immediately provide relief and rehabilitation to affected persons and take stern action against the guilty as per law.

Thakur announced 4 lakh each to the next kin of the deceased and a special messenger has been sent to PGIMER to provide 15,000 each to those admitted there. Also, 5,000 each has been provided to three persons admitted at Una hospital.

The CM also ordered divisional commissioner inquiry into the incident and asked sought the report within a week. He said that an inquiry would also be conducted regarding renting out the land for this illegal cracker factory.

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