A massive explosion and fire at a firecracker factory in Harda town of Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday claimed 11 lives and injured more than 200 people, many of them critically. The police have arrested two owners of the factory and detained another person for questioning. Two workers are still missing and feared dead.
What happened at the firecracker factory?
The incident occurred around 3 pm on Tuesday at the firecracker unit located in the Bairagarh locality on Magardha Road, on the outskirts of Harda town, approximately 150 km from the state capital Bhopal. The factory was reportedly operating illegally without a license and had stored huge quantities of explosives and chemicals.
The blast was so powerful that it was heard 25 kilometres away and shattered the windows of nearby buildings. Eyewitnesses said body parts were scattered at a distance from the site and vehicles on a nearby road were hit by splinters. The fire spread rapidly and engulfed the factory and several adjacent houses.
How did the rescue operations proceed?
The rescue operations continued through the night at the site of the incident with the help of fire tenders, police, and local volunteers. The debris was being removed and fire pockets found underneath were doused. The injured were rushed to the district hospital and other nearby hospitals. Some of them were referred to other cities for better treatment.
Sub Divisional Officer of Police BS Maurya, who was posted at the district hospital in Harda, on Wednesday morning said he has a list of 217 people, of whom 11 have died. Among those injured, 73 people were admitted to the district hospital. These included 51 factory workers and 22 people living in the vicinity of the explosion site, he said. Maurya said 38 injured people were referred to other cities for treatment, while 95 were discharged. Two persons are reported to be missing, he added.
Who are the culprits behind the tragedy?
The police have arrested two owners of the firecracker factory, identified as Rajesh Jain and Rakesh Jain, and booked them for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, among other charges, officials said. Another person, named as Ramesh Jain, was detained in connection with the incident. The police are also investigating the role of other accomplices and suppliers of the explosives and chemicals.
Chief Minister Mohan Yadav has announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 each to the injured. He will also meet the injured persons and families of the deceased in Harda on Wednesday, an official said.
What is the government doing to prevent such incidents?
The state government has constituted a three-member committee to be headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Home) to conduct a detailed probe into the explosion at the firecracker unit. The panel is also mandated to fix the responsibility of those officials who were supposed to prevent such incidents.
The incident has raised serious questions about the safety and regulation of firecracker factories in the state, especially ahead of the upcoming festivals. The government has ordered a crackdown on illegal and unlicensed firecracker units and directed the district authorities to ensure compliance with the safety norms and guidelines.