Four people, including a worker from Orissa, have been trapped under in a granite quarry collapse around 8.45 a.m. on Tuesday at Vengola near Perumbavoor, which is about 30 km from here. Two people have been injured seriously and are in hospital.
Those trapped under the huge mountain of granite and rubble that caved in from a height of more than 100 feet were identified as Eroth Santosh, 42, from Valayanchirangara, who is reportedly the sub-contractor of the granite quarry; Kallarakkal Mohanan, 49, from Nellad; Roma from Orissa and Cheruvarakkudy Vijayan, 47, from Valayanchirangara.
Earthmover operator Kallumkoottathil Raju Varghese, 39, from Maneed has been admitted to the Medical Trust Hospital in the city with multiple fractures. His condition is stable. Sheebu, 20, an immigrant worker, whose address was given as under the care of Raja Granites, Vengola, was taken to the Medical Mission Hospital, Kolencherry, from where he was discharged after being treated for a fractured right leg.
The police will register a case against the quarry owner and licencee based on the report by the Department of Mining and Geology and the RDO. Minister for Industries P. K Kunhalikutty has ordered an inquiry.
Sources said the mining and geology department had submitted its preliminary report on the accident to the district collector and director of mining and geology. The report said the mining was carried out in an unscientific manner in an area not cleared for the operations.
The accident occurred when the workers blasted a chunk of the huge granite quarry on its eastern side, which had a massive earth and rubble layer on top of it. A granite quarry owner said one of the reasons for the accident may have been the huge deposit of earth and rubble on top of the granite chunk that was blasted.
A senior revenue department official said even the unscientific way granite mining was done at the site had contributed to the accident. Most of the huge granite walls have been blasted into a ‘C’ shape, looking totally unbalanced and ready to give in to gravity.
Search and rescue operation was helped by an unusually dry day but there was no positive news till the search was called off late into the evening.
Dozens of workers, supervised by Fire and Safety Department personnel and the police, were removing rubble and drilling holes into huge boulders that crumpled. Earth-movers were working at a furious pace to clear the site for the search.
The granite boulders that collapsed on the workers and equipment were so big that controlled explosions were done because the earth-moving equipment could not shift them from the site. Nine fire engines and firemen from seven stations rushed to Vengola. However, the rescue operations could not be launched until earth-moving equipment arrived to remove the huge boulders.
The site of the accident is an awe-inspiring amphitheatre, surrounded by unrelenting rock, rising as high as 100 to 150 feet on all sides and letting men, equipment and transport vehicles through a narrow, rugged and winding path down to the bottom.
A granite crusher unit and a mini tipper lorry have been crushed under huge boulders and gravel that collapsed as the day’s operations were getting underway at the quarry.
Though the Vengola panchayat authority said the granite quarry had a licence to operate, it has been contradicted by the Mining and Geology Department. The department said the panchayat licence, among five clearances required to operate a granite quarry, lapsed in March this year. District collector P.A. Sheikh Pareeth who visited the site said the licence of the granite quarry was being cancelled.