An explosion of a truckload of explosives, suspected to be meant for mining, killed at least five people in Karnataka's Shivamogga district on Thursday night and sent shockwaves in neighbouring areas, police said. The massive explosion took place near a gravel and boulder crushing facility around 10.30 pm, sending shockwaves not only in Shivamogga, but also in neighbouring Chikkamagaluru and Davangere districts.
Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa confirmed that five quarry workers were charred to death in the huge dynamite blast. It is yet not confirmed if these five bodies are in addition to the initially reported figure of six or if only five have died in the incident. The CM also announced Rs 5 lakh as compensation for the kin of the deceased.
Yediyurappa, in a tweet in Kannada, says that he is in touch with senior officials since late night and teams have already been dispatched to the required rescue operation. "I wish to express my deepest condolences to the family of the deceased. The wounded are being treated and I wish them all a speedy recovery. A high-level investigation into the misdemeanor has been ordered and strict action against the guilty is certain," he said.
Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai said that police have already arrested the quarry owner and the dynamite supplier. "At outset it seems lot of quantity of dynamite has exploded there and there's been some negligence by the quarry owner and the operators," he added.
Earlier today, Murugesh Rudrappa Nirani, who became the mining minister a day ago, said that labourers from Bihar were among the six killed. The exact death toll is yet not clear. While several ministers have said six, nine more bodies are said to have been recovered.
So strong was the blast that window panes shattered while many houses and even roads developed cracks, said an eye-witnesses. As the jolt was mistaken to have been caused by an earthquake, geologists were contacted, who ruled out recording tremors in any of their observatories.
"There was no earthquake. But an explosion did take place at Hunsur on the outskirts of Shivamogga under the Rural Police station limits," a police officer told PTI. Another police officer said, "There has been a blast in a truck carrying gelatin. Six labourers in the truck were found dead. The vibrations were felt locally." He added that the death toll might increase.
The victims were reportedly transporting the explosives meant for mining when the explosion occurred. The vehicle was badly mangled and the bodies of the victims were dismembered beyond recognition. Senior district and police officials including the superintendent of police of Shivamogga have rushed to the spot.
The district administration came to know that it was a huge blast of the explosives used for quarrying. Some claim that about 50 dynamites exploded one after the another, killing at least 15 people on the spot. The lorry that was carrying was destroyed completely.
Ashok Naik, Shimoga Rural MLA, told mediapersons that he too had heard the sound and the tragic incident had taken place in his constituency. "There is a thick smoke everywhere. Can't see anything. At least 15 people have died. It could be more. I can't confirm anything right now," he said.
While pictures of bodies strewn around did emerge from the site as local first-responders shared them, police said, it would take time for a detailed probe and assessment.
Condoling the deaths, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the state government is providing assistance to the affected. "Pained by the loss of lives in Shivamogga. Condolences to the bereaved families. Praying that the injured recover soon. The State Government is providing all possible assistance to the affected." he tweeted.
(With PTI inputs)