Inquiry suggests violation led to quarry mishap

‘Violation of distance between upper and lower vehicle path in the quarry a prime reason behind tragedy’

May 15, 2022 11:52 pm | Updated 11:54 pm IST - TIRUNELVELI

Public gathered in front of the stone quarry at Adaimithippaankulam near Tirunelveli.

Public gathered in front of the stone quarry at Adaimithippaankulam near Tirunelveli. | Photo Credit: A. SHAIKMOHIDEEN

Preliminary inquiry by police and officials from the Department of Mines has suggested that glaring violations of safety norms had led to the tragic accident in the stone quarry at Adaimithippaankulam on Saturday night.

The quarry is situated on the southern side of a sprawling complex and the northern part of the mine is dedicated for manufacturing M-Sand and blue metal in various sizes, with imported machinery. Besides a well-furnished office, the premises also has a weigh bridge and yards to store M-Sand and blue metal.

Sources in the Department of Mines said the vehicle path, leading from the surface to the bottom of the quarry for the lorries and other heavy equipment, should be created in such a way that the height between the upper vehicle path and the immediate next next lower path of the quarry should not exceed 10 feet. However, in this case, the height was more than 25 feet.

“If the distance between the upper and the lower paths, meant for the movement of lorries and other heavy equipment, is 10 feet or lesser, vehicles can go down and come up with stones effortlessly. If this norm is violated, vehicles taking this already dangerous path may overturn. Moreover, if the distance between an upper path and the lower path is less, boulders that may fall down anytime in the quarries from a height due to loose soil would get stuck in the subsequent lower paths, even before the falling object attains greater velocity. When violated, it leads to the tragedy of this magnitude,” said a mining department official.

Having a vast experience in dealing with limestone mines, AIADMK’s Tirunelveli district secretary Thatchai N. Ganesa Raja, who visited the site, too insisted this violation was the prime reason behind the accident.

“If you have to give just 10 feet height between the upper and the lower paths, the mouth of the quarry should be very wide. In other words, you will have to excavate a larger area for making this safety arrangement, and hence will have to spend more. When this norm is overlooked, it leads to accidents,” Mr. Raja explained.

Former Radhapuram MLA I.S. Inbadurai, who visited the accident site along with Mr. Raja, alleged that blatant violations of safety norms had led to this accident. “Even though the mishap had struck the quarry around Saturday midnight, no Minister turned up with experts at the site even after 12 hours to expedite the rescue operation. Besides registering case in this connection, the corrupt officials, whose dereliction in duty led to this accident, should also be booked,” Mr. Inbadurai said, adding that all stone quarries in the district be inspected and sealed, if violations were noticed.

‘Culprits will be booked’

Speaker M. Appavu, who visited the site and the victims in the TVMCH said an unbiased inquiry into this accident would be conducted and all culprits involved in this tragedy would be booked.

Nanguneri MLA Ruby R. Manoharan also camped at the accident site and assured the families of the victims of due help. Meanwhile, police have arrested quarry licensee Sankaranarayanan, alias Sankar, in connection with the accident, while the hunt is on to nab quarry operator Selvaraj, a Congress functionary from Thisaiyanvilai, and his son Kumar.

Some Adaimithippaankulam residents claimed that “uncontrolled use of explosives” in the stone quarry had left their hamlet unfit for living, with powerful explosions triggering large cracks in their houses. “The rocks beneath the surface in this region are not so hard like granites. To make things worse, the loose soil gets softened further due to the uncontrolled use of explosives. Now, these violations have left a few families on the streets,” said a college student from Adaimithippaankulam.

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