A HIGH-INTENSITY blast rocked a godown of detonators in Khanda Hadmatiya village, some 70 km east of Rajkot city, sending shock-waves in dozens of villages nearby and killing a watchman on duty, in the wee hours of Thursday. The blast comes around a year after a similar explosion killed more than 80 people in Jabua of neighbouring state of Madhya Pradesh.
Police said that the explosion was reported at around 1 am at the godown located at an isolated place in Khanda Hadmatiya, a village in Jasdan taluka of Rajkot district. The blast was so powerful that the entire godown stocked with detonators was blown up and its impact was felt in dozens of villages in nearby Vinchhiya and Gondal talukas of the district. The watchman of the godown who was on standing duty at some distance from the compound was hit by debris blown off the godown and was killed. He was identified as Pratap Chauhan (60), a resident of Khanda Hadmatiya and police said he succumbed to his injuries while being taken to hospital.
“More than 20 lakh detonators were stored in the godown. The watchman was hit by a rock or a block blown off the godown and was killed. The area has been cordoned off and police has been deployed there,” Superintendent of Rajkot rural police, Antrip Sood told The Indian Express.
The godown belonged to one Narendra Khunt, a resident of Atkot village in Jasdan taluka. Police said Khunt runs his business of supplying detonators and explosives under the banner of Ajit Agencies and in partnership with Ashwin Bhalala and Nitin Patel.
The SP said that forensic science experts and a team from the office of deputy chief controller of explosives, Vadadara had reached the spot and were trying to ascertain the cause of the blast. “Such a blast has happened for the first time in Gujarat. The explosives department and forensic experts are investigating the cause of the blast. If any negligence on the part of the agency who had stored the detonators comes to light, we shall register an offence,” Sood further said.
Police said that some 17 tonnes of gelignite, an explosive material used for blasting wells and in stone quarries, was stored in nearby godown owned by the same Ajit Agencies. “But luckily, the explosives remained intact and therefore the intensity of the blast remained low comparatively,” the SP added.
The blast sent detonators flying in the radius of around one kilometre. “Minor blasts continued in the vicinity till around 6:30 am. But since then, they have ceased the area and forensic and explosive experts have managed to go to the core of the blats site for investigation,” Jasdan police inspector Jayesh Mori said.
Ajit Agencies claimed they were following all safety parametres for storing explosives. “We adhere to all norms of storing explosives. The godown had the capacity to store 30 lakh detonators. It was opened three days ago and there were 25 lakh detonators stored inside it. These detonators detonate only when supplied electric current or due to friction. As per norms, the godown does not have electricity connection. So short-circuit is ruled out. We have been into this business for the past 30 years but a blast at our godown has occurred for the first time,” said Nitin Patel.
Patel further said that the godown was built some three years ago.
Sub-divisional magistrate of Jasdan, Bharat Patel said the area had been cordoned off as a precaustionary measure and police continued to remain posted.
Incidentally, at least 89 persons were killed in Petlawad town in Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh when a consignment of gelatine sticks allegedly stored illegally in a building went off in September last year.