Five killed as shell bursts in Meerut scrap heap, terror angle ruled out (Second Lead)

November 8th, 2008 - 7:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Lucknow, Nov 8 (IANS) At least five people were killed and seven injured in a blast in a scrap heap in Meerut, western Uttar Pradesh, Saturday afternoon. The police suspected a live mortar shell that ragpickers had picked up from Meerut Cantonment had burst.A senior police officer said two women and three children had been killed in the blast in a slum called Bengali Basti, part of Zaqir Nagar in Meerut.

Additional Director-General of UP Police (Law and Order) Brij Lal told IANS: “Any terrorist activity in this case is completely ruled out. It’s clearly an accident.”

“The blast took place in a colony in the outskirts of the city, to which some slum dwellers had been recently rehabilitated,” said an officer of the Lisari Gate police station on Hapur Road in Meerut.

“The blast took place when the victims were trying to extract copper from a live mortar shell. However, it exploded killing five people,” Meerut’s inspector general of police Guru Darshan Singh told reporters.

The police have recovered some more live mortar shells from the spot and besides defusing them, the area is also being vacated.

Situated near the firing ground of the army, the area is often tresspassed upon by slum dwellers in search of scrap.

“According to army officials, a private contractor is given the task to collect the scrap after the army conducts a firing exercise. However, some shells and mortars get buried in the soil and often do not explode,” explained Guru Darshan Singh.

This is eventually picked up by ragpickers, mostly minors, who trespass into the area. Extracting useful metal from these shells later is a business adopted my many dwellers of the area, he added.

Besides police and administration, army officials were also present on the spot and a joint inspection was being carried out.

The injured had been rushed to hospitals nearby, the police said.

“We will be taking precautionary measures to avoid such incidents in future,” Guru Darshan Singh said.

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