At least 12 labourers, including five women, were killed and nine others were injured after a portion of a godown here collapsed following a huge explosion on Wednesday morning, officials said. The godown, located on Pirana-Piplaj road, stored drums of chemicals, they said.
During a nine-hour-long search and rescue operation, which ended around 8:30 pm, the city fire brigade pulled out 12 bodies and rescued nine persons from the rubble. The injured were taken to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation-run LG Hospital.
A powerful explosion in the godown around 11 am destroyed the structure and caused fire in adjacent godowns where labourers were packing ready-made garments, said officials. “Our operation has come to an end. We pulled out 12 dead bodies from the debris. We also rescued nine people alive. The fire was doused within 30 minutes, the operation was mainly about rescuing people trapped in the rubble," said chief fire officer M F Dastur.
“An NDRF team also joined us in the evening," he said, adding that it was the explosion which was responsible for the damage and loss of life. “There was a fire but it was minor. The godown collapsed due to the explosion. We used concrete-breaker drills to break the concrete slabs to pull out people," he said.
At least 24 rescue and fire fighting vehicles were pressed into service after a call about `a minor fire and explosion’ was received around 11 am, Dastur said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered condolences to the kin of the deceased on Twitter.
“Anguished by the loss of lives due to a fire in a godown in Ahmedabad. Condolences to the bereaved families.Prayers with the injured. Authorities are providing all possible assistance to the affected," the PM tweeted.
President Ram Nath Kovind also offered condolences. “Distressed to learn about the loss of lives in a fire that broke out in a godown in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. My thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families.
“I wish speedy recovery for the injured," the President tweeted. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani announced an ex- gratia compensation of Rs 4 lakh to the kin of each deceased.
He also appointed senior IAS officers Vipul Mitra and Sanjeev Kumar to conduct an inquiry into the incident, said a government release. The godown is located in an industrial area on the outskirts of the city.
“We have initiated an inquiry into the incident," said Deputy Commissioner of Police Ashok Munia. Labourers working in adjoining units told reporters that the explosion was so powerful that it destroyed the walls of the godown which contained chemical drums, following which, the concrete roof collapsed on the people working inside.
Relatives of some of the deceased told reporters that their kin were not working in the godown where the explosion took place. “My mother worked at a readymade garment unit adjacent to the godown. Due to the explosion, the entire structure, including the adjoining place where my mother worked, collapsed," one person said.
While the exact cause of the explosion is yet to be ascertained, some local factory owners alleged that the explosion took place in a boiler installed at the chemical godown-cum-processing unit.