PROPERTY WORTH several crores was gutted after a major fire broke out in a manufacturing unit of Nectar Life Sciences Chemical Limited at Haripur Hinduan village on Barwala-Derabassi road here late on Friday night.
The pharmaceutical company is headquartered in Chandigarh and has three manufacturing facilities each in Derabassi, Baddi and Jammu. The Derabassi unit manufactures Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs), which are the central component of pharmaceutical drugs.
The incident happened on Friday night around 9, when workers saw flames bursting from the company’s solvent recovery plant in unit 2. Around 150 workers were working in unit 2 on night shift and eight of them were working in the solvent recovery plant, where the fire initially broke out. All of them ran out of the unit into the open and were unhurt. No casualty was reported.
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The Derabassi fire department received a call at 9.22 pm and rushed three fire tenders to the spot. The company’s fire officials and other workers too joined the firefighting operation. The stored chemicals and machinery of the plant unit were reduced to ashes.
“A major tragedy was averted. The fire could have been massive, as the solvents stored in the plant were extremely volatile. There was a thick plastic vest and drums insulating the recovery plant from outside. So, fire tenders had to be stationed at least 200 metres away from the plant. The plant consists of four floors,” said Derabassi fire officer Manjit Singh.
The firefighters faced a tough time, as the iron pillars which were supporting the plant started bending outwards due to the rising temperatures and the solvent in the plant began to leak.
“The solvent is extremely volatile. So when it started falling down, it aggravated the fire. There were at least 12 reactors inside the plant, out of which one of the reactors broke down and fell. However, there was no blast in any of the reactors,” added Singh.
Residents of Haripur Hinduan village too gathered outside as they heard several blasts from inside the factory unit. Four more fire tenders were called from Chandigarh, Panchkula, Mohali and one from Steel Strips Wheel Limited company, Dappar. The seven fire tenders took around three hours to control the fire.
There was enough water stored in the factory’s storage tanks. That is why the fire tenders did not run out of water supply during the firefighting operation. According to officials, at least 1,500 litres of synthetic foam was used in the operation.
CEO Dinesh Dua estimated the loss to be in several crores, but said that the exact estimate would be given only after an inspection by a team from the company’s office in Mumbai. According to sources, there have been at least 12 fire incidents in the factory ever since it was set up, but the Friday incident was the most serious.
The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained, but Dua said that it could be due to fire flash which often occurs in manufacturing factories during high temperatures. The plant was set up only one-and-a-half years ago, and the fire department has sought details of permission letter and if it had necessary sanctions from various departments.