JALANDHAR: The Punjab government Monday evening ordered an inquiry into the collapse of the building of a blanket factory here late Sunday night which left two people dead and several others trapped under the debris.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal ordered the Jalandhar Divisional Commissioner to conduct an inquiry into the reasons for the collapse of the four-storeyed building of blanket manufacturing unit, Sheetal Fabrics, here. Badal announced a compensation of Rs.200,000 to the kin of each of the dead.
Badal sent his principal secretary, S.K. Sandhu, to supervise rescue and relief operations even as the local authorities and the factory owner could not clearly specify how many workers, mostly migrant labourers, were still trapped under the debris of the huge factory building.
From speculation of 200-300 workers being trapped and many feared killed under the debris of the building in Jalandhar's Focal Point area, 20 hours later officially the toll was two dead and several trapped.
Throughout Monday, there was confusion on how many victims were actually trapped under the debris.
Deputy Commissioner Priyank Bharti said that neither the administration nor the factory owners had a clear idea on how many workers were still trapped under the flattened factory building.
"Two persons were killed and several workers feared trapped under debris after a four-storeyed blanket factory building collapsed here. From the given information, 60-70 workers were inside the factory when the building collapsed," Bharti said Monday.
Sources said up to 100 workers were inside the factory when the building collapsed. The huge factory building was completely flattened.
At least 55 people had been rescued by teams of the local fire brigade and Punjab police personnel after rescue operations began early Monday, police said in Jalandhar, 150 km from state capital Chandigarh.
Till Monday evening, the police had not even registered a case against anyone regarding the incident.
"At present, our priority is to rescue the trapped workers. We will see the other things later," Bharti said.
Jalandhar police commissioner Gaurav Yadav said that a case will be registered after a probe.
The police said the building of the factory collapsed following a blast in the factory's boiler around midnight Sunday.
The factory is owned by prominent Jalandhar-based industrialist Sheetal Vij, who refused to comment on the mishap. Asked by the media on how many workers were present inside at the time of the incident, Vij hurriedly left the place.
Most of those rescued had injuries and were admitted to hospitals here for treatment, said Bharti.
"We heard a big blast and then debris started to fall around us. We were lucky that we ran out before the whole building came crashing down," a migrant labourer working at the factory told media at the site.
Another worker, who was away from the factory at the time of the incident, said that he had no news about some of his co-workers who were inside. "We are getting no information from the authorities. They are also not letting us anywhere near the complex," the worker said, as he waited a little distance away.
Vij, a powerful social and religious figure of this Punjab city, which is better known for its sports industry and enterprising trading community, has other factories adjoining the one which collapsed.
Rescue teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), district administration, Punjab police Army and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were trying to get out the remaining trapped workers. Volunteers of the Dera Sacha Sauda also joined the rescue and relief operations.
The deputy commissioner said the exact cause of the collapse was not yet known.
Rescue and relief operations continued despite early morning rain in the city.