Blaze at fireworks factory in southern India kills 38, injures 60

September 6th, 2012 - 7:00 pm ICT by BNO News  

SIVAKASI, INDIA (BNO NEWS) — A fast-moving fire swept through a fireworks factory in southern India on Wednesday afternoon, killing at least 39 people and injuring more than 60 others, emergency officials said on Thursday. The cause of the disaster was not immediately known.

The incident happened at around 12:30 p.m. local time when workers at the Om Siva Sakthi Crackers factory, which is located inside a complex in Mudalipetti, near Sivakasi in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, were mixing chemicals. More than 400 workers were inside the complex.

Authorities and witnesses said the fire spread quickly throughout the factory, causing powerful explosions which were heard more than two kilometers (1.2 mile) away from the scene. The blaze also affected more than two-thirds of the complex and it took firefighters nearly five hours to get it under control.

The fast-moving fires and explosions left many workers trapped inside the complex, where large amounts of fireworks and raw materials had been stored in preparation for upcoming Hindu festivals. Police said at least 38 people were killed while 60 others were injured, including some who were critically injured.

Indian media reports said most of the victims were factory workers, but some locals who reached the scene to help were also killed. Bodies which were burnt beyond recognition were seen scattered throughout the factory, and officials fear the death toll will continue to rise.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his deep shock at the news, according to a statement released by his office. “Dr Manmohan Singh said that he stands with the people of Tamil Nadu in this hour of grief and has conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the members of the bereaved families,” the statement said.

Singh also announced an ex gratia payment of 200,000 Indian rupees ($3,579) to the families of those killed and a payment of 50,000 Indian rupees ($897) to those who were seriously injured.

Most firework-related accidents happen in China as it is the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter of fireworks. The majority of these accidents occur towards the end of the Gregorian calendar’s year when demand for fireworks is high in all parts of the world, but demand is also high for the traditional Chinese New Year’s holiday.

In May 2000, 23 people were killed and nearly 950 others were injured when a massive fireworks explosion devastated a neighborhood in the Dutch city of Enschede, making it one of the worst ever disasters of its kind. An explosion at a fireworks factory in the Turkish capital of Istanbul in February 2008 killed 22 people and injured more than 100 others.

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