VIRUDHUNAGAR: The death toll in the Achankulam Sree Mariyammal Fireworks factory mishap rose to 20, with a 51-year-old man succumbing to burn injuries on Sunday evening. Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu revenue secretary K Phanindra Reddy asked Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) to have the Centre bring an amendment to the Explosives Act that could prevent such tragedies in the future.
The 20th victim of Friday’s mishap is J Vanaraj from Ameerpalayam of Sattur. He was taken to the Sattur Government Hospital with 90 per cent burn injuries on Friday before being referred to the Madurai Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH), where he died on Sunday. Sources said that two more victims with 90 per cent burn injuries are in a critical condition. Officials said that a combination of excess workforce along with illegal sub-leasing had contributed to the district’s worst cracker mishap in nearly a decade.
While one of the leaseholders, Ponnupandi, has been arrested by the police, five others, including the factory owner, are still on the run.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the accident, Reddy, who is also Commissioner of Revenue Administration, met with officials from all departments at the district collectorate on Sunday and asked the deputy chief controller of explosives to seek an amendment in the Explosives Act through the Centre.
Reddy put forth three propositions to curb the accidents and said that no one should be employed in the industry without certification. He said training should be mandated for the workers at all levels. “To make the training mandatory, a small amendment has to be made in the Explosives Act,” he said, requesting the PESO official at the meeting have the Centre bring in the amendment.
He said officials of revenue, fire services, explosives (Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation) and factory (industrial) safety departments must work together to draw up an inspection plan, especially during summer and the festival season, and that officials of revenue, police and other departments should be trained to tackle any such situation.
Pointing out that inspection was not meant to cripple the activities of cracker units but to ensure their safety, he requested officials to handle the industry with care.
"With the industry expanding each year, chances of such accidents and potential disasters are also increasing. Officials must ensure that the number of accidents is not equally proportional. We should conduct more drone inspections to spot if workers are made to work against the norms," he added.
As warned by District Collector R Kannan, licenses of those units found to be flouting norms, would be cancelled immediately. In 2018, licenses of 16 units. In 2020, 28 units lost their licenses for flouting norms and now one unit’s license has been cancelled, he mentioned.
Speaking of the solatium offered by the State and Central governments, he said that the Collector was taking action to provide legal heir certificate and other documents necessary to ensure the funds reach the affected soon.
Addressing the media persons, Reddy said that there is a Rs 5 crore-burns ward facility at the Sivakasi Government Hospital and a similar one is being constructed at the Virudhunagar Medical College Hospital. However, as officials had requested a Trauma Care Centre in the outskirts of Virudhunagar as well, the request would be passed on the State government and action would be taken, he said.
Reddy later visited the blast site and inspected a cracker manufacturing unit before visiting some of the victims at a private hospital in Sattur.