Three persons were killed and four were seriously injured in an explosion at a licensed fireworks unit at Malur, near Pathanapuram, in the district around 9.30 a.m. on Sunday.

The explosion, the cause of which is as yet unknown, was so powerful that the bodies are beyond recognition. The police said the roofs of at least 10 houses some distance away from the unit were partially damaged in the blast.

Keshavan Asan, 60, pyrotechnics expert, Adarsh, 19, son of the unit’s licencee, Presennan, and Podiyan, 42, worker; are the dead. One of the injured is in a highly critical condition and has been admitted to the Government Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram.

The other three are in a government hospital in Punalur. District Collector P.G. Thomas ordered an inquiry, headed by Sub-Divisional Magistrate R. Jayaprakash. Mr. Thomas sought the inquiry report in a week.

Minister for Forests K.B. Ganesh Kumar, who is the Pathanapuram MLA; Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash; K.N. Balagopal, MP; district panchayat president S. Jayamohan; Mr. Thomas and City Police Commissioner Debesh Kumar Behera visited the scene. Mr. Prakash announced a relief of Rs. 10,000 each to the dependants of those killed.

Initially, many people in Malur thought it was a mild earthquake that rocked the area, the police said. People ran out of their houses after feeling the tremor.

The District Collector said compensation would be considered for the damaged houses. The fireworks unit in an isolated area within a rubber plantation had been functioning for several years. It had a good storage of explosives for the ongoing temple festivals.

Mr. Thomas said the inquiry would look into whether the unit had stored explosives beyond the permitted level. Preliminary investigations showed that the shed had underground cells to store explosives. Hence the blast had simulated an earthquake.

Workers from Tamil Nadu employed at the unit were staying in a nearby shed and had a miraculous escape. The Pathanapuram police have registered a case.

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