At least 12 workers, many of them women, died and several others were missing after a major fire broke out at a chemical company located in an industrial area in Pune district on Monday, fire department officials said. The fire broke out at SVS Aqua Technologies, which manufactures chlorine dioxide and is located in the Pirangut MIDC area of Mulshi tehsil on the outskirts of Pune city, they said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief in a tweet and said, “Pained by the loss of lives due to a fire at a factory in Pune, Maharashtra. Condolences to the bereaved families." President Ram Nath Kovind also condoled the deaths and said, “The loss of lives of workers, mostly women, in a fire accident at a factory in Pune is extremely unfortunate. My condolences to the families of the deceased. I pray for speedy recovery of the injured."
Pained by the loss of lives due to a fire at a factory in Pune, Maharashtra. Condolences to the bereaved families.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 7, 2021
The Prime Minister’s Office announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each for the next kin of those who lost their lives due to a fire at the industrial unit in Pune, Maharashtra. Rs. 50,000 would be provided to those injured, a statement said. Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to kin of those who lost their lives in the fire.
“According to company officials, 17 workers were missing when the blaze started at around 4pm. “So far, we have recovered 12 charred bodies, mostly of women, from the spot and a search for others is on," said Devendra Potphode, Chief Fire Officer, PMRDA ((Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority), Fire Services.
He said six to seven fire tenders were rushed to the chemical unit, where flames were doused but the search is underway for the missing workers. Asked about the possible cause of the blaze, Potphode said as per the company officials, the fire started during packing of plastic materials in the premises.
“Due to some spark at the (packaging) section, the fire broke out and as there was plastic around, it spread rapidly," said Potphode. Dr Abhinav Deshmukh, Superintendent of Police, Pune district, said the plant is engaged in producing chlorine dioxide for water purification.
Chlorine dioxide is a chemical compound which has a variety of antimicrobial uses, including the disinfection of drinking water.
The Maharashtra government has announced a probe into the incident.
Meanwhile, authorities resumed search operation to look for any more victims at a chemical plant here on Tuesday, a day after a massive fire broke out in the premises, and also summoned the firm’s owner to ascertain what kind of materials were being used there, officials said. Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil is expected to visit the site later in the day and take stock of the situation.
While sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Sandesh Shirke on Monday said 18 bodies were recovered from the firm’s premises, Superintendent of Police Abhinav Deshmukh on Tuesday said 17 completely charred bodies and one body part were recovered so far during the search operation. “We suspect the recovered body part could be of one of the 17 victims. That is why we are as of now considering 17 casualties," Deshmukh said.
He also said as per the company officials, there were 17 employees at the site when the incident took place. The fire broke out on Monday afternoon at SVS Aqua Technologies, which manufactures chlorine dioxide among other chemicals and is located in the Pirangut MIDC area of Mulshi tehsil on the outskirts of Pune city.
The search operation was stopped late Monday night due to darkness and heat caused due to the blaze. On Tuesday morning, fire brigade officials resumed the search operation to find out any more victims at the fire- ravaged plant.
“We have resumed the search operation inside the firm on Tuesday morning to find if anyone is still under the gutted wreckages," a fire brigade official said. Besides, the police have summoned the firm’s owner for questioning to gather information on what kind of chemicals and materials were being used at the plant, Deshmukh said.
Meanwhile, SDM Shirke said they have started a probe into the incident. A committee, led by the SDM, was formed to conduct a probe into the incident.
Shirke earlier said all the bodies, which were completely charred, were sent to the government-run Sassoon General Hospital for autopsy. The bodies were burned beyond recognition and their identify will have to be ascertained by conducting DNA testing, he said.
A fire official earlier said as per the company authorities, the blaze started during packing of plastic materials in the premises. “Due to some spark at the (packaging) section, the fire broke out and as there was plastic around, it spread rapidly," he had said.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had said an inquiry was ordered to find out the exact cause of the fire and a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each will be given to the next of the kin of the deceased. The firm, located near Uravade village, around 40 km from the city, is into manufacturing of chemicals, including chlorine dioxide, which are used in water purification.
(With PTI inputs)