TIRUNELVELI: Death toll in the stone quarry mishap at Adaimithipankulam in Tirunelveli district rose to three on Monday, after the bodies of two of three men still trapped beneath a giant boulder were retrieved by the 30-member National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team that reached the site on Sunday night.
The condition of the other trapped man is not known although rescue efforts are continuing. Officials revealed the 2.36 hectare quarry had been barred from continuing operations in April 2022 for mining beyond the permitted limit but the owners had continued work in violation of the law.
The mishap occurred late Saturday night when a boulder rolled into the quarry, trapping six men, following a landslide. J Vijayan (25), M Murugan (31) and S Selvan (25), all crane operators, were rescued on Sunday and rushed to the Tirunelveli Government Medical Hospital, where Selvan succumbed.
On Monday, the NDRF team managed to recover the body of M Selvakumar (30), a tipper lorry driver, from under the rocks. However, with the ground becoming unstable, rescue efforts had to be briefly suspended. Late Monday night, the team recovered the body of P Murugan (25), a cleaner, while P Rajendran (42), a tipper lorry driver, remained trapped.
Quarry owner, son on the run; SPL team formed to nab duo
During a press conference, Geology and Mining department director L Nirmalraj said the quarry had a licence from 2018 till 2023 but was barred from operating from April 2022. South Zone Inspector-General of Police Asra Garg, who met with the family of the victims, said Nanguneri ASP Rajat R Chaturvedi had been appointed investigation officer and two persons, including the lessee Sankaranarayanan, had been arrested. “Quarry owners Selvaraj and his son Kumar are absconding.
A case has been registered against them under Sections 304, 304 A, and 333 of the IPC and a special team has been formed to arrest the duo,” said State minister RS Rajakannappan. He noted there are 55 quarries in Tirunelveli district, of which three are not in use. Recently, six stone quarries near the Western Ghats were closed and a penalty of `20 crore has been imposed on quarry owners violating the law, he said. “Further investigation will be conducted and quarries will be inspected using drones,” he added.