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Mystery BARC fire kills two scientists

Two research scientists were killed after a fire broke out in a photochemistry laboratory in the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Trombay.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Mumbai |
December 30, 2009 4:34:57 am

Two research scientists were killed after a fire broke out in a photochemistry laboratory in the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC),Trombay,on Tuesday afternoon.

They were identified by the police as Umang Singh from Mumbai and Partha Pratim Bag from West Bengal,both PhD students in BARC’s Radiation and Photochemistry Division.

While the cause of the fire in the third-floor Modular Lab is yet to be ascertained,the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) said that no reactor,radioactivity or radiation was involved. The fire has left authorities puzzled since,as per preliminary information,the two scientists were not dealing with any inflammable material.

BARC director Sreekumar Banerjee spoke to National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and PMO officials today. Sources said that of the five scientists working in the lab,three were on holiday and only Singh and Bag were at work.

Both were University of Mumbai students in their late twenties,working on their PhD in collaboration with the DAE. Their subject: free radical reactions,antioxidant studies of plant extracts.

S K Malhotra,head of DAE’s Public Awareness Division,said: “The BARC fire brigade brought the fire under control in about 45 minutes.” He said the bodies were “charred beyond recognition” and discovered by the firemen as they fought the billowing smoke.

Additional Commissioner of Police (East Region) Ritesh Kumar said the Trombay police have begun investigations. This is the second incident after a drinking-water cooler was found to be contaminated with tritium on November 24 at the Kaiga nuclear plant. The BARC incident comes at a time when the government is still not clear about the Kaiga culprits.

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