‘Violations galore at Kanchi firecracker unit’

By Subashini Vijayakumar| Express News Service | Published: 24th March 2023 07:22 AM
A local at the site of the explosion in Kancheepuram

CHENNAI: On March 22, a massive explosion at a firecracker manufacturing unit near Kuruvimalai in Kancheepuram resulted in the death of 11 people and injured many others, who are undergoing treatment at hospitals in Kancheepuram, Chengalpattu, Chennai and Vellore. Blatant violation of rules was allegedly taking place in the unit and this could have led to the accident, said officials.

Naren Fireworks, where the unfortunate incident took place on Wednesday, had a license to handle only 15 kg of explosives and employ six people. However, prima facie evidence suggests more than 500 kg of fireworks exploded. There were 27 people present on the site including workers, a manager, a painter and an owner’s relative.

According to a top revenue official, the unit obtained a permanent license in 1991. The licence renewal, which should be done every three years, was last done in 2021 and is valid till 2024. “With the license given at the level of district revenue officer, the manufacturing unit can store and handle 15 kg of explosives with six persons at a time. For above 15 to 500 kg, the license should be obtained from Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO) which has an office in Sivakasi,” said the official.

relatives mourning the people who died on Wednesday | P Jawahar 

This apart, explosives were stored in another building which was not affected. “This building has been inspected by the authorities from PESO and sealed. Further action on their disposal will be taken based on their instructions,” he added. “I was checking the accounts around 11.30 am outside and suddenly heard a loud bang. I am not sure in which of the three buildings it started. To my knowledge, around 200 kg of explosives were stored in the three buildings,” said G Manikandan, manager of the building.

He started working in the unit only four months ago, he said. Several of the workers, who were previously involved in agricultural work, were employed only less than six months ago, violating the rule that only those with training should be involved in hazardous work. “My mother was working as an agricultural labourer. As farm work decreased, especially after Covid-19, she started working in the fireworks manufacturing unit about six months ago,” said the son of S Sasikala, who died in the incident.

Officials added that the evidence suggests pellets used in the display fireworks were handled out in the open. Under the license terms, these pellets should be handled only inside closed rooms. The collector has asked the district revenue officer to submit a report on the blast within a month. Only a detailed investigation can reveal the exact cause and what other rules were violated, the officials added. Villagers of Kuruvimalai and Vallathottam said production is usually increased during the festival season.

“There was an explosion in the firecracker unit in Vaiyavur in 2006, in which three people died. In the same place, four people died in another explosion in 2014. There were several such incidents. As the manufacturing is seasonal and owners have political clout, there are no proper inspections leading to such incidents,” said a villager on condition of anonymity.

Activists blamed the callous attitude of the authorities for recurring incidents. “There is no doubt there were several violations. Despite such incidents taking place repeatedly, no proper inspection is done,” said an activist.

Steps being taken to prevent accidents in cracker units: Minister 
Chennai: Minister for Revenue and Disaster Management KKSSR Ramachandran on Thursday said the government is taking steps to ensure accidents don’t occur in firecracker manufacturing units. “Many steps have already been taken to prevent accidents in firecracker units in Virudhunagar. Similar measures will be implemented in Kanchipuram and other parts where cracker units are there,” he said.

Tags : explosion firecracker manufacturing unit Kancheepuram Kuruvimalai

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