ARIYALUR: Ten people, including three women, died and 13 others were injured in a major explosion at a firecracker unit at Viragalur village near Keelapalur in Ariyalur district on Monday. Explosions inside the unit continued for nearly three hours, police said.
More than 30 people from Sivakasi, Tiruvaiyaru and surrounding villages were working at the unit, Deepam fireworks, when the blast started. The injured were admitted to two hospitals. Three of them are critical. The reason for the blast is being probed, police said.
The licensed unit owned by K Rajendran (65) of South Street in Viragalur village has been in operation since 2014. Rajendran was also operating a firecracker retail shop on Thanjavur-Ariyalur road, located a km away from the fireworks unit. The unit manufactures explosives, stores them in godowns and supplies them to wholesale and retail traders across the state. Rajendran and his son-in-law A Arunkumar (40), who runs the unit, have been arrested.
According to sources, workers were restarting their work after breakfast recess when the explosions rocked the place around 9.30 a.m. Even as the employees were trying to flee, the fire spread to sheds where raw materials and manufactured explosives were stored and to godowns on the campus.
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The whole area went up in flames and was covered with dark smoke in no time. Keelapalur police and firefighters from Ariyalur, Perambalur and Thanjavur rushed to the spot and doused the fire after several hours.
Water was supplied to fire engines through trucks and tractors for the fire-fighting exercise to continue. The deceased were identified as B Seenu (a) Liaqat Maiden (23) and D Panneerselvam (53) from Virudhunagar, S Ravi (45), R Sivakami (40), K Rasathi (38) and S Vennila (40) from Viragalur, M Chinnadurai (55) from Karaivetti, K Arivazhagan (56) from Thatchankurichi, U Sivakumar (38) from Pillayarpatti and V Anandaraj (50) from Kumbakonam.
The bodies were sent to Ariyalur Medical College Hospital for autopsy. Of the 13 injured, six of them were taken to Thanjavur Medical College Hospital for treatment and seven were being treated at Ariyalur Government Hospital. A tractor, one van and eight two-wheelers were completely gutted in the fire. District Collector J Anne Mary Swarna and SP K Feroz Khan Abdullah visited the spot. More than 100 police personnel were also involved in the rescue operation.
Chief Minister MK Stalin has announced a solatium of Rs 3 lakh each to the families of the dead, Rs 1 lakh to those with major injuries, and Rs 50,000 to those with minor injuries. “The licence of the unit is from 2014 to 2024. We are probing the reason for the accident,” the SP said.
Labour Minister CV Ganesan and Transport Minister SS Sivasankar visited the Ariyalur Medical College and met the injured. “Action will be taken against firecracker units that fail to follow safety regulations. We are planning to set up a high-level committee headed by collectors and district fire officers to give permission for firecracker units and monitoring them. The cause of the accident will be known only after the probe,” the ministers said.