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Expert panel will probe fire incident at SII: Ajit Pawar

PUNE An audit will be conducted in the fire incident at Serum Institute of India’s (SII’s) Manjari plant that claimed five lives, while an expert panel will determine the cause of the fire, according to Ajit Pawar, deputy chief minister of Maharashtra and Pune guardian minister who visited the facility on Thursday night
By Shalaka Shinde
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 10:40 PM IST

PUNE An audit will be conducted in the fire incident at Serum Institute of India’s (SII’s) Manjari plant that claimed five lives, while an expert panel will determine the cause of the fire, according to Ajit Pawar, deputy chief minister of Maharashtra and Pune guardian minister who visited the facility on Thursday night.

While Pawar in Pune said that the experts’ opinion was required to determine the cause, health minister Rajesh Tope, in Mumbai, said that the sparks that flew due to the welding work had caused the fire while the material inside the room had aggravated it.

“An audit will be conducted to see if the structure, which is a special economic zone (SEZ), had all the required facilities in place. A team of experts will also determine the cause. A further probe will be launched if anything is found amiss in the audit,” said Pawar.

“Crime branch Unit 5 will be conducting an investigation in the matter.We have approached various fire agencies to look into the matter,” said Amitabh Gupta, commissioner of Pune police.

The deceased labourers were identified as Rama Shankar Harijan, Bipin Saroj, both residents of Uttar Pradesh; Sushil Kumar Pandey from Bihar; Mahendra Ingle, and Pratik Pashte from Pune, according to the NDRF team which was present during the rescue operation.

Meanwhile, for the bereaved families of the labourers, SII has announced a payment of 25 lakh each along with the other procedural ex-gratia, according to a statement issued by the organisation. The state has, however, not made any ex-gratia-related announcement.

“We were all working on the fourth and fifth floor when the fire broke out and we saw smoke filling in space. Some of us managed to escape the situation. However, my brother and others could not come out quickly. Now I am being told by others here that he has died in the tragedy,” said Sudhanshu Kumar, brother of Sushil Kumar Pandey, a resident of Bihar, who died in the fire incident.

It was the construction contractor who told the rescue officials that some of his men were missing, according to Chetan Tupe, a legislator from Manjari.

“After the dousing process was over, the officials went back inside and found the men on the top floor of the building. The fire started on the top two floors and they got stuck there with no way of escaping,” said Tupe.

“The bodies were found in the second sweep conducted after the fire dousing and cooling was done,” said Murlidhar Mohol, mayor of Pune.

Hours after the fire was doused, sparks were flying during the cooling process at the building which had caught fire in the afternoon. “We have vehicles on standby to deal with these remnant fires,” said Prashant Ranpise, chief fire officer, Pune fire brigade.

While a team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and a private team of Amanora group were also involved in the rescue process along with the Pune police.

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