Kerala shop owner’s death by cylinder blast poses questions on safety of roadside chips outlets

83-year-old Achary died after two gas cylinders exploded at the Kannan Chips shop in Kaithamukku.
Image of a police cordon line used for representational purposes only
Image of a police cordon line used for representational purposes onlyFile Photo

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The death of Appu Achary, a chips shop owner at Kaithamukku in Thiruvananthapuram, in a gas cylinder blast on Saturday has posed a question about the safety of roadside shops.

83-year-old Achary died after two gas cylinders exploded at the Kannan Chips shop in Kaithamukku. His son Kannan and employee Pandyan had a narrow escape and are currently undergoing treatment at Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital.

As per the fire force personnel, seven gas cylinders were stored at the chips shop and a major disaster was averted after the residents removed five cylinders in the nick of time.

In a similar incident, four shops at East Fort were completely gutted last April. The only exception was that it was a wayside tea shop. Fortunately, none sustained serious burn injuries.

Many of the shops are set up by encroaching on the road, posing serious risk to pedestrians as well as motorists. During the construction of the Vellayambalam-Sasthamangalam road in 2011 by the Thiruvananthapuram City Road Improvement Project (TCRIP), a major fire broke out in a chips shop which was set up by encroaching the road at the busy Sasthamangalam Junction.

At the time, Anil Kumar Pandala, former managing director of Thiruvananthapuram Road Development Company (TRDCL) and concessionaire of the Kerala Road Fund Board, approached the then Thiruvananthapuram district collector highlighting the danger the shops under its territory posed. Following the advice from the collector, Pandala addressed the letter to the revenue divisional officer.

“Unfortunately, I never got a reply from the officials. The explosion at the chips shop in Sasthamangalam Junction was reported exactly a week after I sent the letter to the RDO,” said Pandala, adding that storing several gas cylinders at chip shops can also prove fatal like in Achary’s case.

He said such mishaps should be avoided in the future and reminded the authorities that law and safety should be above personal interests.

“There are 16 such shops in the TCRIP corridor spread across 42km. Even a slight mishap would cause fatal injuries to pedestrians. As far as my information goes, the gas agencies do not permit such installations close to public places,” added Pandala.

Meanwhile, Badusha, a chips seller and a native of Poovachal, who owns a push cart set up at Vazhuthacaud opposite Cotton Hill Girls Higher Secondary School told TNIE that not everyone uses gas cylinders for frying chips and other snacks.

“To maintain quality, I have been using kerosene which is more expensive than gas. In fact, I find it difficult to procure kerosene. One of my friends gives me his kerosene quota.Due to God’s grace, I have not faced any unfortunate incidents so far,” said Badusha.

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