NEW DELHI: As many as 90 people were killed and some 100 others sustained injuries in Saturday’s massive blast at a crowded highway in Petlawad town in Madhya Pradesh’s Jhabua district.
The explosion which occurred at around 8.30 am is suspected to have been triggered by explosives illegally stored in a shop owned by Rajendra Kasawa on busy Petlawad-Ahmedabad highway.
And it completely destroyed a two-storeyed house and the nearby Sethia Restaurant. The dead victims as well as the injured, included several travellers, office-goers and locals, who had stopped at the food joint for breakfast.
The deadly blasts also claimed the life of several daily wage labourers and fruit-vegetable vendors, who had just about started the day’s business on the wide pavement in front of the building.
Express Spoke to three Madhya Pradesh government officials present on the spot, who claimed that the explosive was illegally stored at the shop even though Kasawa had the licence to use the explosive for digging wells in rocky areas and mining. However, it was pointed out that he did not have the licence to store up explosives.
The reason for the blast was not immediately clear but the officials said the explosives could have been triggered by cylinder blast or inadvertent error by the owner in fixing the explosive . Earlier, reports from the district had suggested that an LPG cylinder in restaurant may have caused the building to collapse, which officials ruled out at this stage.
District Collector Aruna Gupta told Express that the 38 persons, who sustained serious injuries, were rushed to Ratlam and Dahod in Gujarat which is around 70 km from Petlawad. Aruna, however, ruled out the cylinder blast theory.
“The death toll could be much higher as many people are feared trapped under the debris. Those, who have been rushed to Ratlam and Dahod, are very critical and death toll may go up. As far as the cause of the explosion is concerned, we have started the probe after the state government ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident,” Aruna said.
She also confirmed that the shop adjacent to restaurant had stored detonators and other explosives which are locally called ‘topa’ and used in the digging of wells and mines.
Praveen Patidar, Naib Tehsildar (Revenue Officer) of Jhabua said the heavy toll was due to the fact that the shop and restaurant were located close to a bus stop. And Praveen, who also took part in the relief and rescue operations told the Express that 53 injured were rushed to different hospitals for the treatment.
Additional SP, Jhabua, Seema Alawa said the emergency response team could not detect any trace of explosives or gelatine stick. However, the team had recovered some wire possibly meant for detonators stored in the house.
“We have also found traces of urea (fertiliser) from the building. The preliminary probe showed that Kasawa did indeed have the licence to carry out explosion to dig wells in rocky areas but not for storage of such huge cache of explosives. There is possibility that he had procured it illegally,” Alawa told Express.
President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday condoled the loss of lives due to the explosion. “I am sad to know about the explosion in which a large number of people lost their lives and many others got injured,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi too expressed pain over the loss of lives in the explosion at Jhabua.
“Extremely pained at the loss of lives due to the blast in Jhabua. My deepest condolences to the families of the deceased,” he tweeted.
“Wish all those injured a speedy recovery. MP Government is monitoring the situation closely,” he said.