Six women employees were charred to death in a fire that broke out in a firecracker unit at Kalaiyarkurichi near here on Friday.

Six others, including two men, who sustained serious burns, were referred to Government Rajaji hospital in Madurai.

Friction while handling chemicals could have led to the accident, killing the women on the spot at around 2 p.m., Virudhunagar Collector, M. Balaji, said.

Among the injured, two had sustained 100 per cent injuries and the remaining around 80 per cent, he added.

The dead were identified as C. Angammal (50), M. Shanmugathai (48) (both from Pudukottai), M. Veerammal (50), A. Avudaiammal (53) (both from Ayankarisalkulam) and Mamta (26) from Bihar and R. Ammaponnu (35) from Kallursandai.

Fire and rescue service personnel, who deployed two fire tenders from Sivakasi and Virudhunagar, fought the blaze for more than an hour. The fire damaged the concrete building that housed the chemical room.

In the impact of the explosion, one of the bodies fell 20 feet away, a police officer said. The impact of the fire was visible on a coconut tree, more than 30 feet away from the site of blast.

The police suspect that the workers took explosive materials from the chemical room when the temperature was at its peak, triggering the explosion. Quoting fire safety norms, the officer said mixing of chemicals was permitted only in the morning hours when the temperature is minimal. However, the Collector said that the actual cause of accident could be ascertained only after a thorough enquiry.

The bodies were handed over to the relatives after post-mortem.

Compensation

The Collector has sent a report to the government seeking compensation for the injured and for the family members of the dead.

Minister for Information Technology R.B. Udhayakumar and Superintendent of Police Najmul Hoda inspected the accident spot.