Three persons were injured in an explosion near IIT Bombay’s aerospace engineering department on Friday afternoon. An official statement issued by the institute said the incident occurred outside the foyer of the aerospace department.
“At 12.30 pm today (Friday), a minor incident occurred outside the foyer of the aerospace department at IIT Bombay. Tushar Jadhav, a former dual degree student of Aerospace Engineering, and two interns — Prashant Singh and Rajat Kumar — were filling hydrogen in balloons as part of an experiment. The balloon burst and the three suffered minor injuries,” the statement said.
Officials said the three, after being administered preliminary treatment at the IIT hospital, were sent to National Burns Centre at Airoli for further treatment. All three are fine and have been kept under observation but will be discharged soon, said an official.
“They are all stable. They have suffered inhalation and facial burns due to impact of the blast. We operated upon them immediately,” said Dr Sunil Keswani, director at National Burns Centre.
“The interns are not students of IIT Bombay. Tushar Jadhav, after passing out of IIT Bombay, had started a firm Manastu Space, incubated at Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE) at IIT Bombay. He had hired the two interns — Singh and Kumar — for his project. Jadhav has been a part-time staffer at IIT Bombay’s mechanical department,” the statement read.
Eyewitnesses, however, said the explosion took place while the trio was running an experiment on a ‘lighter-than-air’ airship. The airship that already had a mixture of hydrogen and helium was being pressured before it exploded under unsustainable pressure. Hydrogen being a combustible substance resulted in a fire which was carried by the shock wave. The trio was not wearing any safety precautions and are known to have suffered burns on their faces said an eyewitness.
Students at IIT have raised the issue of safety inside laboratories, claiming that safety protocols were not being followed. They pointed out that the area where the explosion occurred has only one entry, exit point and no fire safety drills have been conducted.
“People have complained earlier on this, but no action has been taken. This explosion took place near the entry point. Had it led to fire, it would have endangered many lives. In foreign universities, you don’t keep such labs in the main building,” said an eyewitness.
Students claimed that there were many labs on the campus where experiments are carried out with combustible elements without adequate safety measures. Students said such experiments were frequent in the combustion laboratory, which engages in combustion studies, and hypersonic laboratory.
“In these labs, professors themselves do not come when the experiments are being conducted. There were no lab technicians or professors present at the spot when the incident took place. There are no safety protocols followed and similar incidents are waiting to happen,” said a student.
The institute has a safety officer in the office of the dean of research and development.
IIT, however, denied that it has compromised on safety. “This is not true. All safety guidelines are followed. In this case too, an inquiry will be conducted,” said an IIT Bombay spokesperson.