Tamilnadu:At least 57 killed, 60 hurt in fire at Sivakasi cracker factory

At least 52 persons were burnt to death and 50 injured today in a devastating blaze that raged through a fireworks factory on the outskirts of Sivakasi, the country’s cracker manufacturing hub.

The toll might go up as several people were still feared trapped under the debris, police and fire brigade said, as the fire was doused by the evening amid intermittent explosions.

Officials said the dead bodies had been accounted for from hospitals at Sattur (16), Virudhunagar (13), Sivakasi (21). Two others died on way to a hospital in Madurai.

Almost all those killed were workers, with some persons, who rushed inside the factory complex to try and rescue those trapped inside, also falling victim to the blaze, they said.

The tragedy struck when workers were engaged in mixing chemicals for fancy fireworks. The blaze gutted all 48 sheds located in the premises of Omshakthi fireworks factory, police and fire officials said.

They said the entire production had been stored in a godown against official advice.

The Tamil Nadu government announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the deceased. The government also announced that the critically injured would get Rs 25,000 each while those with minor injuries would be given Rs 10,000 each.

According to Kathiresan, the medical officer of the government hospital, some of those who got injured in the accident are suffering from severe head injuries, fractures and burn injuries.

He further said that the building where the accident occurred also collapsed due to the explosion, adding that all the victims were over the age of 20.

The factory had 40 rooms with several of them acting as godowns for firecrackers and chemicals. All the rooms caught fire, but since all the rooms were on ground floor so most of the workers managed to escape.

“These are times ahead of Deepavali. So activities go on at breakneck speed in the cracker units,” Virudhunagar District Superintendent of Police Najmul Hoda said.

The fire broke out when fancy cracker items were being made at the factory. Ten fire tenders were sent to douse the fire, and the blaze was brought under control after more than two and a half hours.

The sheds were reduced to ashes in the sprawling complex of the company and the debris had to be cleared to get a clear picture of the actual number of casualties, an official said.

Fire officials said that due to a variety of chemicals used in pyrotechnics crackers, there was thick and suffocating smoke, making their task difficult to enter the factory. The smoke could be seen 1.5 km away from the spot.

“These are times ahead of Deepavali. So activities go on at breakneck speed in the cracker units,” Virudhunagar District Superintendent of Police Najmul Hoda said.

Fire officials said due to the variety of chemicals used in pyrotechnics crackers, there was thick and suffocating smoke, which made the task difficult for fire fighters.

The Tamil Nadu government sent six state ministers along with principal secretary to the site.

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