Area cordoned off to prevent people from rushing to blast site

Timely deployment of scores of policemen, who denied access to curious on-lookers anywhere near the two fireworks units near Sivakasi where a series of blasts were witnessed, saved precious lives on Thursday.

Having learnt lessons from the Muthalipatti fireworks accident one year back, the police were quick to form a cordon outside the two units. “We rushed a company of Tamil Nadu Special Police to the site to prevent people from getting dangerously closer to the accident spot,” the Inspector-General of Police (South Zone), Abhay Kumar Singh, said.

The Virudhunagar Superintendent of Police, S. Maheswaran, said that the TSP and some 100 local and Armed Reserve police blocked the people at least half a kilometre away from the spot.

He recalled that the death toll in the September 5, 2012 accident at Om Sakthi Fireworks at Muthalipatti, touched 40 only because of the on-lookers rushing into the accident spot.

A 1,000-strong crowd, mostly local villagers, over powered the skeletal strength of the police present at time of accident. “Out of the 40 killed, only four were employees, while all others were outsiders,” he said.

With the bitter memories of Muthalipatti accident still fresh in the minds of the authorities, top officials from all department concerned rushed to the spot.

“Initially, it was said that 150 people were trapped in the fireworks unit,” TIFMA secretary T. Kannan said.

Besides Virudhunagar Collector T.N. Hariharan, all senior police officials, including those in Madurai, rushed to Sivakasi fearing a major disaster.

Five fire tenders from all over the district were mobilised.

Callers who had alerted 108 Ambulance services claimed that more than 25 persons got stuck inside the cracker unit. “We immediately rushed six ambulances to the accident site and four others to Sivakasi Government hospital,” its manager, G. Thanigaivelmurugan, said.

Mr. Hariharan said special teams formed to conduct inspections of the cracker units following the Muthalipatti accident inspected over 600 and suspended the licenses of the 65 units for major violation of safety norms in the last three months. “Showcause notices were issued to 17 units for minor violations,” he added.

The Collector said that there were complaints against a cracker unit that they might deploy more workers than the prescribed limit and use excessive chemicals to meet their orders for Deepavali.

“With less than two months left for them to meet the festival season, we will intensify the inspections at the cracker units to prevent accidents,” he added.

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