(Written by Niraj Raut)
Surendra Kumar Yadav had news to give to his wife and children on Saturday evening. After six years living in a building housing a chemical company, it was time the family moved to a proper home.
“By 7 pm, when my taxi reached my building, which housed the chemical plant of ANK Pharma Private Limited, my home had disappeared,” he recalled. Yadav’s wife Rajmatidevi (40) and son Golu (19) were found dead beneath the rubble after a huge explosion destroyed a part of the plant and an adjacent underconstruction building in Boisar’s Tarapur Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) area.
Twelve hours later, Yadav’s daughter Khushi (13) became the eighth person to be pulled out of the debris following the explosion triggered by a failed trial run of chemical production.
Yadav, a 40-year-old tailoring supervisor at a textile firm, spent Sunday at Thunga Hospital, Tarapur. The lone survivor in his family was his nephew Sachinkumar, who was visiting from Bihar, and is severely injured, police said.
The Yadavs were one of two families who Industries Minister Subhash Desai said on Sunday had been staying illegally on the first floor of the three-storey building. Desai, who inspected the structure, said that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray would chair a meeting on Monday to discuss steps to safeguard civilians living in the state’s industrial units. He added that a detailed inquiry would reveal how Natwarlal Patel, who owns ANK Pharma, constructed additional two floors when MIDC had permitted only an one-storey facility.
The other family, which like the Yadavs, served as caretakers of the premises and Patel’s employees, was that of Rahul Singh. The 27-year-old had the narrowest of escapes as he walked across the road to a shop to purchase guthka just minutes before the explosion, allegedly triggered by Patel, shook the earth.
His wife Nishu (26) and mother Madhuri (46) did not survive the crash. However, his daughters Prachi (6) and Rutika (3) emerged with only injuries on the head and scratches on the faces, arms and legs after crawling under the bed. Sonu Singh, Rahul’s cousin, said that the children had not been told that their mother and grandmother were no more. Rahul’s younger brother Rohit (19) is in the ICU at Thunga Hospital.
At the town’s primary health centre (PHC), friends of deceased security guard Ilyas Ansari (54) said that he was minutes away from heading home to a special dinner. “At 6.45 pm, Ilyas had called his wife Asma to ask what was for dinner. She told him that she was planning to cook mirchi ki subji and jowari roti. Ilyas asked her to cook daal gosht instead,” said his friend Raza Ahmad. The explosion has left Asma Ansari alone to raise two sons and a daughter.
Mohan Ingale was another one of Patel’s employee who died. A doctor at the PHC said that those brought dead bore multiple fractures consistent with being crushed debris.
Trinath Dasari (40) died on what was to be his last day on the job. His uncle M P Naidu said the deceased lift mechanic had come to the factory to collect his salary. “He worked for a company that is contracted to install and maintain the lifts. Trinath finished some minor pending civil work at the lift shaft and was waiting to be paid.”
Among the seven injured is Patel, who is being treated at Wockhardt Hospital on Mira Road for serious stomach injuries. Fellow factory owners and police said that Patel, a mechanical engineer who lives in Boisar, is experienced in handling chemicals. His two-year-old firm had received Consent to Operate and manufacture chemicals from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) on January 2.
Mukesh Patel, a member of Tarapur Panchayat Samiti, claimed that Saturday was Patel’s second trial run after a failed effort on Friday. “The first time, he used 100 kg of a chemical and thick fumes came out of the reactor. On Saturday, he put 350 kg of a chemical into the reactor,” he said. Owners of factories in the vicinity claimed that Patel’s use of large quantities of ammonium nitrate may have led to the explosion.
Palghar SP Gaurav Singh said the chemical Patel used and intended to manufacture would only be identified once the MPCB and the Directorate of Industrial Safety and Heath submitted their probe reports to the police. “Witnesses have told us that Patel was undertaking trials. Surprisingly, for a pharmaceuticals company, there was no other machinery installed apart from a large metal reactor. At the moment, it appears the blast took place after a lot of pressure was generated during the trial,” he added. The police are investigating a case of accidental death.
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