CHANDIGARH: At least 22 people were killed and 27 others injured — many of them seriously — in a blast that destroyed a firecracker factory located in a residential area of Batala town in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district on Wednesday.
Two of the three owners and five of their kin were among those killed in the blast that demolished the three-storey building which housed the firecracker unit, ‘Namdhari Fireworks’. Such powerful was the blast that a few buildings were also damaged in the vicinity.
Sources said there were two loud blasts followed by a series of low intensity blasts at about 4 PM. “Within a couple of minutes, two houses collapsed right in front of me,’’ said an eye witness.
Deeply anguished to learn of the loss of lives due to the blast in the firecracker factory in Batala. Rescue operations are underway with the DC & SSP heading the relief efforts.— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) September 4, 2019
Confirming that the toll reached 22, IG (Amritsar Range) SPS Parmar said the focus was on rescue operations first. “The factory was issued a licence more than two decades ago. All the factory workers were killed in the blast. We are trying to ascertain the cause of the blast. Some of the victims were out on the road. ‘’
Several people are feared to be trapped under the debris and the toll may rise further. NDRF and SDRF teams were involved in the rescue operation. “We are trying to rescue the missing people, if any, buried under rubble,’’ said Deputy Commissioner, Gurdaspur, Vipul Ujjawal. “We will check the status of the licence afterwards as the factory owners had applied to the local administration.’’
CM Amarinder Singh announced a magisterial inquiry and directed his minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa to reach the spot to oversee the relief and rescue operations.