12 held for fireworks factory blaze, probe ordered (Lead)

September 6th, 2012 - 9:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Sep 6 (IANS) Twelve people have been arrested for the massive blaze at a fireworks factory in Tamil Nadu’s Sivakasi town that killed 38 people, police said Thursday. A probe has also been ordered.

Among those arrested is Paul Pandi, who was running Om Shakthi Fireworks on lease. But police are still searching for factory owner Murugesan.

The state government also ordered a magisterial inquiry into Wednesday’s fire tragedy in the country’s fireworks production hub, around 480 km from Chennai.

The inquiry will find out why the unit was running when its licence was cancelled a day before the accident.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa issued the probe order after meeting ministers and officials to find out ways to stop such accidents from recurring.

“I have ordered a magisterial inquiry into the operation of the firecracker unit when its licence was cancelled and also reasons for the accident,” she said in a statement.

The chief minister said Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation in Nagpur had issued a licence to the factory in 2006 and officials of the Explosives Control Department had inspected it.

The unit’s licence was cancelled Tuesday over excess stocking of chemicals, employing a large workforce and encroaching upon safety areas and for other lapses, she said.

She said the district collector of Virudhunagar (where Sivakasi is located) had received the cancellation order’s copy Wednesday.

She ordered the district collector to inspect all firecracker units in the district.

The chief minister also gave a grant of Rs.4.5 crore for upgradation of the government hospital in Sivakasi and for setting up a burn unit there.

More than 75 people were injured in the explosion and fire that tore through one of the biggest fireworks factories in Tamil Nadu.

“The death toll could have been higher if police had not prevented people from entering the unit,” P. Raja, a police inspector in Vachakarapatti in Virudhunagar, told IANS over the telephone.

He said most of those who died were bystanders injured by flying bricks and other materials due the intensity of the blast.

The blast were so powerful that more than 40 of the 48 sheds in the unit were destroyed, catching workers and bystanders unawares, police said.

A massive fire soon engulfed the entire factory because a huge amount of raw materials and firecrackers were being readied for the coming festive season.

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