The police, Fire and Rescue Service personnel and local people engaged in rescue work at the site of the explosion in Thrissur on Thursday.
THRISSUR: Four persons were killed and several others seriously injured, on Thursday afternoon, in an explosion at a unit engaged in the production of fire-works for the Thrissur Pooram festival.
The casualty figures are likely to go up as it could not be ascertained as to how many people were working in the unit and whether anyone has been trapped in the debris. The condition of some of the injured was reported to be critical.
The unit was engaged in the production of different varieties of high-decibel crackers required for the `sample fireworks display' of the Paramekkavu Temple, one of the two major partners of the Thrissur Pooram.
None of the bodies that were recovered could be identified immediately as some of them had charred beyond recognition. The Fire and Rescue Service and police personnel had a tough time putting off the fire and rescuing the victims. The impact of the explosion was felt even miles away from the unit.
District Collector Premachandra Kurup, who visited the site, said that steps had been taken to remove the remaining explosives from the site. Many buildings near the unit were damaged in the incident and several people in the vicinity were injured.
According to reports, 11 persons were working in the unit when the explosion occurred. Six of them were admitted to various hospitals with severe burns. The explosion has raised doubts over the prospects of holding the sample fireworks display in the city on Friday evening.
Demands have come in from various quarters to reduce the scale of the Thrissur Pooram this year and confine it to a mere ritual. Deputy Inspector General of Police B. Sandhya, district Superintendent of Police Jayaprakash, Intelligence Superintendent of Police Muhajir arrived at the spot to supervise the rescue operations. Abrupt heavy rain hindered rescue operations.
Cracker manufacturing unit did not observe safety guidelines
T. Ramavarman, The Hindu,
THRISSUR: The explosion on Thursday at a fire-works production unit occurred due to neglect of safety norms prescribed for handling explosive chemicals used in the production of crackers, said experts. The unit did not have a licence of the Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (previously Central Explosive Department) even though it handled a large quantity of explosives.
"In fact, there is no fire-works production unit in Thrissur district that is licensed by us," an official of the Organisation told The Hindu . He said the unit might have a licence issued by the district magistrate (DM) though even this was not immediately verifiable. A licence from the DM empowers the unit to handle only 12.5 kg of explosives per day. But the officials said that a much larger quantity of explosive chemicals was being handled at the unit. As per the provision of the DM's licence granted under Form 20 of the Explosives Act, 1983, the unit should be located at a safe distance from a residential area. However, here the production of high-decibel crackers was on in a populated area. The local people said they were not even aware that such large-scale production of crackers was taking place there. The unit was located in the `Aanapparambu' (elephant yard) of the Paramekkavu Devaswom. The rules also stipulate that in cracker producing units, there must be separate sheds for storing, mixing, packing of explosive chemicals, and for the godowns of the final products. The rules have also stipulated safe inter-distance between the different sheds.
There are also strict restrictions on the number of people working in each unit.
A visit to the site will prove that these rules were observed more in breach.
Even though the officials of the police, fire service and the district administration did a commendable job in carrying out rescue operations after the accident, it was clear that none had bothered to find out whether the unit was functioning as per the rules.
Similarly, the high intensity of noise caused by the explosion had led to demands for an inquiry to ascertain whether any banned chemicals like potassium chlorate were used in the production of the fire-works in the unit.
Even though the accident has reinforced the demand for scaling down the noise level of the Pooram fire-works display, many fear that this issue will be side-tracked once the attention of the media is turned away from the explosion.