50 killed in Sivakasi firecracker unit fire

The factory had lost its licence just a day earlier; to meet Diwali demand,300 were at work.

Written by Gopu Mohan | Chennai | Published: September 5, 2012 9:50 pm

In one of Sivakasi’s worst accidents ever,over 50 workers were killed as a major fire broke out Wednesday afternoon in a unit at the firecracker manufacturing hub. The death toll is expected to climb.

Senior officials said the deputy chief controller of explosives,Sivakasi,had cancelled the licence of the unit concerned,Om Sakthi Fireworks at Mudhalipatti,only on Tuesday due to violation of norms noticed during an inspection last week. However,work was on at the unit.

The cause of the fire that started from a godown of the factory is not yet known. The Om Sakthi factory is among the bigger ones in the town.

Police said there were nearly 300 workers at the factory when the fire began — a larger than usual number because of the coming Diwali season. The fire and smoke that engulfed the premises suffocated the workers,making it difficult for them to escape. The fire also led to explosions that brought down the shed of the factory and trapped workers. Many among the local public who rushed in to help were also injured.

Such was the intensity of the fire and explosions that police and fire service personnel could begin rescue operations only three hours after the fire began. “The experts were against rushing in immediately due to fear of further explosions,but our men risked their lives to evacuate the injured and those trapped inside,” said District Superintendent of Police Najmul Hoda.

With no good facilities to treat burn victims in Sivakasi or its neighbourhood,the injured had to be taken to Madurai,losing precious time in the process.

Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa deputed a six-member ministerial team to visit the spot and oversee rescue and relief operations. The state government has announced a solatium of Rs 2 lakh for the family of the deceased besides financial assistance for the injured.

Expressing his condolences,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of each of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those injured.

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