JHABUA: Eighty-two people were killed and 49 others injured when a huge pile of explosives kept inside a building went off at Petlwad town in Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh today, a senior official said.
An adjacent building and number of other houses in the vicinity were extensively damaged in the high-impact explosion compounding the tragedy. Chief Medical Officer Dr Arun Sharma told PTI that "So far, 82 people have been killed in the explosion and till now, we have performed the autopsy of 60 people." The injured are undergoing treatment in various nearby hospitals.
According to Divisional Commissioner Sanjay Dube the toll may go up further as rescue operations are still underway at the explosion site to locate survivors. According to Sub Divisional Officer of Police (SDOP), Petlawad, A R Khan, the explosion took place around 8.30 AM at Petlawad town, at a store in the building where a large amount of explosive material used for mines were kept.
The exact number of casualties will be known once the rescue operations are over as many people are suspected to be still trapped in the debris, he said. Earlier, police had said that the explosion was caused by a cooking gas cylinder kept in the adjacent three-storeyed building housing a hotel.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan expressed grief over the incident and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each to kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those injured. "I am saddened by the incident. I express my condolences. I have directed the Minister in-charge to go to the spot. The administration has reached the spot. I have asked the Principal Secretary to skip the Hindi Sammelan and arrange treatment for those injured in the blast. I am in constant touch. The incident is sad and has left me shaken. The reasons for the blast will be investigated," the Chief Minister said.
Senior officials from Jhabua including Superintendent of Police G G Pandey besides State Tribal Welfare Minister Antar Singh Arya have rushed to the spot. State Home Minister Babulal Gaur said a high-level inquiry has been ordered into the incident.
A team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has been dispatched to Jhabua to help in the salvage operations of the collapsed building. "A team equipped with gadgets to operate in collapsed structures has been sent to the accident site in Jhabua from Vadodara in Gujarat. The team will assist local administration in retrieval operations," NDRF Director General O P Singh told PTI in Delhi.