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23 Killed in Blast at 'Illegal' Firecracker Factory in Gurdaspur; CM Announces Rs 2 Lakh Compensation

Inspector General (Border Range) SPS Parmar said the blast occurred around 4 pm at the factory. The massive explosion in Gurdaspur turned nearby buildings into rubble.

News18.com

Updated:September 5, 2019, 11:37 AM IST
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23 Killed in Blast at 'Illegal' Firecracker Factory in Gurdaspur; CM Announces Rs 2 Lakh Compensation
Rescue workers at the spot of the explosion in in Gurdaspur on Wednesday. (PTI)
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New Delhi: At least 23 people were killed and 27 injured after an explosion at a firecracker factory in Punjab's Gurdaspur district on Wednesday.

The death toll was expected to rise since several labourers were buried under the debris of the building located in a residential area called Valmiki Ashram near Hansli naala on Jalandhar road in Batala.

Batala Senior Medical Officer Sanjiv Bhalla said, "A total of 23 people have died in the blast."

Of the 14 seriously injured, four persons were referred to the Amritsar government hospital, he added.

Inspector General (Border Range) SPS Parmar said the blast occurred around 4 pm at the factory. The explosion also damaged buildings nearby, shattering windowpanes and even bringing down the roofs of a couple of them. Several cars parked nearby were also damaged in the blast, with locals saying the explosion was heard a few kilometres away.

Eyewitness Sukhraj Singh said the impact of the explosion flung a car into a nearby drain.

Another Batala resident Rajpal Khokkar was passing by after a visit to a nearby gurdwara when the explosion took place. "When I heard the loud blast, I fell down. When I gained consciousness, I found myself in hospital," he said.

Sahib Singh had just left the factory after buying crackers. The blast left him unconscious. Another man, Sukhdev Singh, said two others who were buying crackers with him died in the blast.

Gurdaspur Deputy Commissioner Vipul Ujjwal said the immediate priority of the administration was to save those still trapped under the debris. "We are trying to find out if anyone is missing," he said.

Residents in the neighbourhood have in the past complained that the factory is illegal, but claim that authorities have failed to take any action. Several demands were also made that the factory should be closed down. There was another explosion at the site in 2017, in which one person had died.

To a question by reporters, the deputy commissioner said the factory owner had applied for the license but its status was yet to be checked.

Hours after the explosion, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh ordered a magisterial inquiry, which will be conducted by the assistant deputy commissioner of Batala. Singh has also directed the Rural Development and Panchayats Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa to immediately rush to the spot to oversee the relief and rescue operations.

Singh announced an ex-gratia grant of Rs 2 lakh for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the seven severely injured who were referred to Amritsar Medical College. He has announced Rs 25,000 for those with minor injuries.

Singh also directed both the civil and police administration of Gurdaspur district to extend all possible help to the victims’ families. He also directed the Gurdaspur deputy commissioner to provide the best possible treatment to the injured free of cost and also asked the Batala Senior Superintendent of Police to supervise the evacuation operations being carried out by the NDRF teams.

The opposition parties in Punjab accused the government of failing to take any action, with Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Mathijia asking how an illegal factory had been allowed to operate for so long.

Singh said rescue operations are underway, with the DC and SSP heading the relief efforts.

BJP's Gurdaspur MP Sunny Deol, in a tweet, said teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the local administration have been rushed to the site.

President Ram Nath Kovind and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also expressed grief and offered condolences.

(With inputs from PTI)

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| Edited by: Moonmoon Ghosh
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