In the wake of cracker blast at Sholavandan railway station, which claimed two lives, the police had intensified checks at bus stands and railway stations ahead of Deepavali festival as a precautionary measure, said Deputy Inspector General of Police (Madurai Range) P. Balasubramanian here on Tuesday.

Police officers in the city and district had been asked to get in touch with the fire brigade and railway police and ensure safety at pockets where public gathered in large numbers.

As a first step, thorough checks had been intensified at major shopping areas, bus stands and railway stations round-the-clock. Commercial vehicles such as share autorickshaws, mini buses and heavy vehicles would be checked at check-posts and any person or vehicle found carrying fireworks without permit would be dealt with an iron hand, Mr. Balasubramanian said.

The Fire and Rescue Services Department Deputy Director (Southern Region) M. Shahul Hameed said that all the 1,500 officers, including fire service personnel, spread over seven divisions and eight revenue districts (Madurai, Theni, Virudhunagar, Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga, Tirunelveli, Tuticorin and Kanyakumari) had been instructed to be vigilant round-the-clock.

Last week, the department conducted an awareness rally in Sivakasi about the need to adopt safety while bursting crackers and during aerial displays. Pamphlets carrying messages of precautions to be taken were distributed through students. Fireworks manufacturers and dealers had been instructed to take care while transporting fireworks as mishandling might result in accidents, he told The Hindu.

Based on applications received through revenue authorities, the department had issued no objection certificates (NoC) to 569 applicants for setting up shops to sell crackers in the southern region.

Precautions

He appealed to the shopkeepers to have buckets of sand and no smoking boards displayed in the area. There should not be any flammable or thatched roof in the vicinity, Mr. Hameed said and added that a safe distance of 15 metres between two shops would prevent accidents. Display of loose crackers had been banned and any licensed seller found indulging in violations would be dealt with sternly, he said.

Fire-prone areas

On the eve of Deepavali and on October 17 (Saturday) fire tenders would be stationed at pockets where cracker shops were in large numbers. For instance, fire tenders would be positioned at East Masi Street-Kamarajar Salai-Vilakuthoon area in Madurai, at Tirunelveli junction, and at three strategic locations in Tuticorin district, Mr. Hameed said.

Last year, frequent calls (of fire) were received from Tirupparankundram in Madurai district. A total of 50 calls were received on Deepavali day in 2008 and 25 calls in 2007. Public can call 101 and police control room (100) and ambulance services at 108, he added.

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