SIVAKASI: In a major fire accident, at least 31 persons were feared dead, while dozens more injured in an explosion in a fireworks manufacturing unit in Sivakasi in Virudhunagar district in south Tamil Nadu. While police confirmed that 10 bodies were pulled out of the debris, they say the number of deaths could be higher. The accident occurred around 12.15pm at Om Sakthi Fireworks in Mudhalaipatti, located in the fireworks manufacturing hub of Sivakasi. About 40 rooms in the manufacturing unit collapsed, trapping many of the employees.
There were about 250 employees working in the unit when the accident occurred and many of them are trapped in the debris. "We are uncertain about the extent of damage and casualty. We fear that more than ten persons could be dead," said a senior revenue official. Fire and rescues services as well as ambulances could not get near the cracker unit for fear of another explosion due to huge quantity of chemicals stacked. They were unable to gain access to the accident spot for more than two hours as the two rooms are still burning and are expected to explode any time. The death toll is expected to rise as many more workers would have been trapped inside the buildings.
A few injured, who were flung away in the impact of the explosion, were being rushed to government hospital in Sivakasi and then to government hospital in Madurai. Revenue officials blamed labourers and said the accident could have occurred due to friction among the chemicals. This is one of the biggest explosions in the last few years at Sivakasi. This year, so far four explosions have occurred in various fire cracker units in Sivakasi and about five people were killed.
Police said Om Sakthi Fireworks was involved in making fancy fireworks, which are more dangerous when compared to the crackers that are intended to make loud noise rather than illuminate. The chemicals used in fancy crackers spread fast and also cause extensive damage. This was the reason for the fire to spread from one of the rooms where it originated to all the 40 rooms in the unit. While many employees working there suffered injuries, few villagers who rushed to help them were also injured in a blast and the ensuing fire.
There are about 600 major fire cracker units in Virudhunagar district while hundreds of small and minor units are functioning with about 30,000 workers.