Chandan Yatra blast in Odisha claims three lives, probe ordered

The survivors were admitted to nine different private and government hospitals in Puri, Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.
 Screenshot of the explosion
Screenshot of the explosion

PURI/ BHUBANESWAR: The explosion in a firecracker stockpile that rocked the Chandan Yatra festival of Lord Jagannath in Puri on Wednesday night has claimed three lives, including two children. One of the victims was a two-year-old boy.

Even as Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday ordered a high-level inquiry led by special relief commissioner (SRC) Satyabrata Sahu, the incident which occurred during fireworks display near Narendra tank leaving 30 persons injured smacked of gross absence of safety measures by the administration.

The survivors were admitted to nine different private and government hospitals in Puri, Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. Six were discharged while eight were admitted to the SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack. The health and local administration, however, were reluctant to disclose details of the survivors some of whom are believed to be minors.

On that day, Naveen visited SUM Ultimate Hospital in the capital to meet the injured. He interacted with their family members and held discussions with the doctors. An ex-gratia assistance of Rs 4 lakh to kin of each deceased has also been sanctioned from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund (CMRF).

Initial investigation revealed no permission was obtained from the authorities concerned for the firecrackers shown on such a large scale. Eyewitnesses said the explosion occurred when burning firecrackers landed on the stockpile, triggering a chain of explosions by a narrow bank of the tank where a large crowd including children had gathered to witness the show. The Odisha Fire and Emergency Service personnel were also deployed as ‘Chapa Khela’ was being organised.

Rescue operations at Narendra Pokhari in Puri;
Rescue operations at Narendra Pokhari in Puri;

A firefighter on conditions of anonymity said, a firecracker reportedly fell on a heap leading to a massive burst and sparkles. People including children were unable to see anything due to smoke and some of them even jumped into the pond to save their lives. “At least three individuals were rescued from the water and we shifted nine persons to hospitals in autorickshaws and ambulances,” he said.

Chief secretary Pradeep Jena and SRC Satyabrata Sahu rushed to Puri to take stock of the situation. During his visit, Jena told mediapersons that a detailed inquiry will be carried out to find the lapses so that such a situation can be avoided in future.

“Our first priority is to ensure proper medical care is provided to the injured and we are closely monitoring the situation,” Sahu told The New Indian Express.

After the mishap, police maintained that no permission was given to any person or institution for display of fireworks. The Shree Jagannath Temple Administration also stated it does not conduct firework display on the concluding day of Chandan Yatra.

However, according to a source, donations were collected from business establishments and locals for the fireworks by some people.

Meanwhile, Kumbharpara police has registered a criminal case against three persons in connection with the incident. IIC of Kumbharpara police station Jaydeep Mohanty said a case under sections 286, 325, 326 and 304 IPC and sections 3, 4, 5 of Explosives Act has been registered. Forensic wing also collected samples of exploded crackers. It is learnt that the main suspect is seriously injured and battling for life in a medical college.

Preliminary investigation revealed the incident occurred at about 10.30 pm. Initially, people present at the site presumed that it was a special display of fireworks. As soon as the explosion took place, chaos prevailed. Eyewitnesses present close to the mishap site said many jumped into the water to escape the fire.

Soon after, people desperately sought ambulances and two persons carrying babies with burn injuries were seen running for Badadanda to get to the hospital at the earliest. They finally got there on motorcycles. Many were shifted on private vehicles too.

At the Shree Jagannath Medical College and Hospital, chaos reigned supreme as family members of the injured were frantically looking for treatment. Parents and relatives got another shock as burn injury cases were referred to SCB Medical College and Hospital. Puri SP Pinak Mishra organised a pool of ambulances and shifted them to SUM and SCB and Hi-Tech Medical College within a short time. This averted angry reaction from the residents.

The incident showed that there is no burn ward in the medical college hospital which is functioning in the district headquarters hospital. The four bed burn ward which was in operation before the medical college took over was closed on the pretext of creating a new building. Many senior residents said police and other officials were aware of firework display. Had security and safety measures been taken, the mishap could have been evaded, they added.

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