TIRUCHY : At least 18 staff of an explosives factory are feared to have died after a blast at their workplace in T Murungapatti, near Thuraiyur, 84 km from Tiruchy, on Thursday. An explosion was heard from Vetrivel Explosives Private Limited around 7 am and residents within a seven-km radius felt the impact of the blast.
At the site, dismembered bodies were scattered across 100 acres. Almost all seven buildings of the factory had cracked, with one crumbling completely, giving Fire and Rescue Services personnel a tough time sifting through the debris to retrieve the bodies beneath.
Work at the factory, which supplied explosives and chemicals to companies involved in mining, began at 6 am, with about 40 staff reporting for duty. Nearly 300 people work at the factory during each of the three shifts in a day.
At least four workers, who were mixing explosives at the time of the blast, had their bodies blown to bits, while others were trapped under the debris. Though seven ambulances were deployed at the site, there was little aid the medical staff could provide. A senior medical staff said it was nearly impossible to identify the dead, with dismembered hands, legs and other body parts strewn across the vicinity. The accident site was cordoned off as rescue workers sprayed water to control pollution caused by chemicals, one of which was believed to be nitric acid.
Demanding that the factory be permanently shut, villagers alleged that discharge from the factory polluted groundwater in the area. Minister for Tourism Vellamandi N Natarajan assured them that the factory would be sealed, and Collector K S Palanisamy said an investigation would be launched.
The explosives manufacturing factory, Vetrivel Explosives, has been functioning for the past 16 years and the nearby villages of Kompanpatti, Thappanpatti and Murungapatti work here in shifts.
The factory's clients include Neyveli Lignite Corporation, where explosives are used for breaking up the Lignite quarries, and other companies in Kerala.
According to sources, at least seven ambulances have been deployed to clear the bodies have been sent to Tiruchy Government Hospital.