A revenue official was killed and seven others, including an Inspector of Police, were critically injured in a fire accident during a raid on illegal cracker units near Sattur on Tuesday. The dead official was identified as Kumarasamy, Village Administrative Officer (Kanajampatti).
Among the injured were Inspector of Police (Sattur Town) Abdul Lateef; Reserve Sub-Inspector Ramesh; Armed Reserve constables Asaikani and Chandrasekaran; Revenue Inspectors, Rajmohan (Nalli), Chandrasekaran (Nenmeni) and Rajesh Kannan (Sattur). They have been admitted to two private hospitals in Madurai.
Police sources said that the team led by the Sivakasi Revenue Divisional Officer, K. Kombaiyan, raided a motor-pump house of a private farm in Meenakshipuram following specific information that illegally manufactured crackers were stocked there. The team found around 2,000 gross of fuses meant to be used in firecrackers.
“The accident happened when the goods were being removed,” Minister for Backward Classes, K.K.S.S.R. Ramachandran, who rushed to the hospitals from Chennai, told reporters. The raids were conducted following complaints of illegal cracker units functioning in the area.
Besides the hospital staff, a medical team from the Madurai Medical College is treating the injured. “The issue has been taken to the notice of the Chief Minister. All necessary help will be extended to the families of the injured,” he added.
Though reliable sources said that the accident was triggered due to “mishandling of seized goods,” the Minister said the cause of accident was not immediately known. “It would be probed later. Our first priority is to save the lives of the injured,” he said.
When asked about the “mishandling” of explosives by the team, Virudhunagar Collector V.K. Shanmugam said that three teams had been raiding various places for the past three days. “They have handled a lot of explosives in the past. Even in the last three days, they have seized at least a lorry load of firecrackers. We don't know how it happened,” he said.
Virudhunagar Superintendent of Police S. Prabhakaran said friction while moving the fuses would have caused the accident. “All the team members ran helter-skelter with their clothes on fire,” he said. Some of them were given first-aid at Government hospital in Sattur and the others at the GH in Sivakasi. While an Inspector sustained 35 per cent burns, the others have sustained more than 75 per cent burns, Mr. Shanmugam said.
The team had broken open the pump room to take the fuses away. They were caught unawares by the sudden explosion following which fire engulfed them. Fire and Rescue Services personnel, led by the Divisional Fire Officer, A. Karunakaran, doused the fire.
Later, Minister for School Education Thangam Thennarasu visited the injured at the hospitals. Inspector-General of Police (South Zone), S.S. Krishnamoorthy, inspected the accident spot.
Besides Virudhunagar Collector, Madurai Collector C. Kamaraj and Madurai Commissioner of Police P. Balasubramanian visited the hospitals.