Tamil Nadu tragedy: 9 killed, 17 injured as blasts rip through Kancheepuram firecracker unit

Though the unit had a valid licence, it did not possess a No Objection Certificate from the Fire and Rescue Service Department.

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published Mar 22, 2023 | 9:21 PMUpdatedMar 22, 2023 | 9:21 PM

Smoke billowing from the fire-cracker unit (right); and District Collector M Aarthi at the scene. (Supplied)

Nine people were killed and at least 17 others sustained burns — some of them grievously — in a series of explosions at a firecracker-manufacturing unit in Tamil Nadu’s Kancheepuram district on Wednesday, 22 March.

The police said 27 labourers were at work at the unit, owned by one Narendran, at Pazhathottam Palar in the Kuruvimalai village when a blaze triggered the blasts around noon.

The workers were trapped inside when the fire spread through the six rooms of the unit’s godown and triggered explosions that destroyed the building.

People in the nearby areas responded immediately and informed the authorities.

The Fire and Rescue Department’s stations at Kanchipuram, Uthiramerur, and Sriperumbudur rushed fire tenders and nearly 30 personnel to the scene to carry out rescue operations and douse the fire.

The identities of the deceased and those injured were not immediately determined. Most of the deceased were charred beyond recognition.

8 people sustain severe burns

Fire and Rescue Department Deputy Director (North-West) P Saravanakumar told South First that the explosions were heard across a radius of 3-4 km.

“We reached the scene by 12.15 pm and the rescue operation lasted nearly one hour and 45 minutes. We rescued 16 persons with severe burns, and recovered three bodies,” he said.

Meanwhile, other people, including the police, also rescued a few and rushed them to the Kancheepuram Government Hospital.

A duty doctor told South First that eight people, including five women, suffered burns over more than 40 percent of their bodies.

They were shifted to the Government Hospital at Chengalpattu, and one person was referred to the Kilpauk Government Medical College Hospital.

E Rajkannu, a villager who was among the first responders, said they rushed to the unit on two-wheelers after hearing the first blast.

“But we couldn’t go near the unit due to a series of explosions. We rescued two people who came out running. Two others were completely charred,” he said.

Kancheepuram District Collector M Aarthi and Superintendent of Police M Sudhakar visited the scene and supervised the rescue operations.

Also read: 3 fires, 17 dead: What was common in Secunderabad fires?

No NOC after 2021: Fire Department

Aarthi said the unit possessed a licence valid till 2024.

“Four persons, including owner Narendran, have been arrested. The reason for the blaze and consequent explosions could be ascertained only after a full-fledged investigation,” she told South First.

Meanwhile, the Fire Department’s Saravanakumar said the unit had his department’s No Objection Certificate (NOC) only for 2021.

“We don’t have any records of the unit getting an NOC after 2021,” the officer said.

Also read: 1 killed, 6 hurt in blast at ‘unlicensed’ Kerala firecracker unit

Stalin announces aid

Chief Minister MK Stalin announced an ex gratia of ₹3 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased. Financial aid of ₹1 lakh was announced for those injured in the incident.

Minister for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises TM Anbarasan visited the injured workers at the government hospital.

He told reporters that three people were killed instantly, and five others died while being shifted to the hospital. One person died in the hospital.

“More workers were employed at the place meant for just seven or eight could work. I have asked the police to take action against all violations. A proper solatium will be given to the kin of the deceased and the injured,” the minister said.

Recent incidents

Incidentally, two women, were killed and a man was injured in a blast at a firecracker unit at Nagadasampatti village in the Dharmapuri district on 16 March.

While the deceased were identified as K Muniammal (65) and B Palaniammal (50). P Sivalingam (47) suffered grievous injuries and was admitted to Dharmapuri district hospital.

On 31 December, four people were killed and five others injured when firecrackers stocked in a house at Moganur Metutheru in the Namakkal district exploded.

Houseowner Thillai Kumar, his wife Priya, his mother Selvi, and a woman next door were killed in the incident. Kumar’s five-year-old daughter suffered injuries due to the blast.