The noise of an explosion and subsequent fumes while police were defusing a hand grenade triggered a stampede in an adjacent school in West Bengal’s Coochbehar district on Monday, injuring 48 students. The incident took place in Coochbehar’s Haldibari area. However, hospital authorities said none of the students were in a serious condition.
On November 15, a live grenade was recovered from Town Club grounds in Haldibari. On Monday, bomb squad experts were diffusing it inside the premises of Haldibari police station, while there was an examination going on at the nearby Haldibari Girls High School. While students of Class 9 were taking their final examination, the test examination was on for Class 10 and 12.
Around 11.30 am, the noise of an explosion and the ensuing fumes ended up creating panic among the students, many of whom thought it was an earthquake. As students and teachers made a dash for the exit, a stampede-like situation took place. In the process many got injured, many suffered trauma and started to vomit while some fell unconscious.
“We all thought there was an earthquake. Our school is adjacent to the police station. The noise and the fumes made the students panic and sick. There was pandemonium and everyone was trying to get out of the school. We did not know what to do. The police should have alerted us or taken precautions,” said Ishita Deb Sinha, assistant principal of the school.
However, Pravin Pradhan, inspector in-charge of Haldibari police station, said all precautions were taken while defusing the explosive. “All I can say is that all precautions were taken,” Pradhan said.
Sources said initially 68 students were taken to local hospitals, but 20 were discharged after administering first-aid. At present 48 students (14 in Jalpaiguri Super-speciality hospital and 34 in Haldibari Gramin hospital) remain admitted.
Parents of the students made a beeline to the hospitals as soon as news spread of the tragedy. Authorities at the hospital said some students had suffered fractures on limbs and head, while some were suffering from trauma. Some fell sick after fumes from the explosion entered their classroom, they said.