The Safety Council of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay, Mumbai, will investigate the cause of the fire in a chemical laboratory on the BARC premises on Tuesday.

The council will also come up with recommendations on how to prevent such incidents, S.K. Malhotra, spokesman, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), said on Wednesday.

The fire resulted in the death of two research students, Umang Singh of Mumbai and Partha Bag of Kolkata.

The chemical laboratory is situated in the third floor of a building called the Modular Laboratory. It had analytical instruments, including spectrophotometers.

“Freak accident”

What is puzzling BARC scientists is that the fire erupted with “a loud bang” although no explosive material was stored in the laboratory. The explosion shattered a couple of windows.

“Everything was burnt. We don’t really encounter such incidents. It is a freak accident. It is baffling how the fire could have erupted,” said Mr. Malhotra. “Sabotage from any angle is not a possibility,” he added.

As for reports that Umang Singh was injured in a minor fire in the same laboratory a few days ago, Mr. Malhotra said he was neither able to confirm nor deny it.

Minor fire

PTI reports from Mumbai:

Umang Singh escaped with a minor injury on his hand when a small fire broke out in the laboratory last week, his close friend Jairam Gholave said on Wednesday. “Last Friday, there was a small fire in the same laboratory where he died,” Mr. Gholave said as he waited to receive his friend’s body at the J.J. Hospital’s coroner’s court.

Mr. Gholave, doing his Ph.D in Chemistry from the University of Mumbai, said he scolded his friend for risking his life by putting out the fire with his hands instead of complaining to the authorities. “Umang said since it was not a major blaze, he did not want to make it an issue.”

His father retired from service a few years ago and Umang Singh was the family’s sole bread winner. He was getting a monthly stipend of Rs 14,000, Mr. Gholave said.

Distraught families of Umang Singh and his junior Partha Bag were present at the J.J. Hospital to collect the bodies after the post-mortem.

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