Three killed, five injured as metal racks topple in warehouse

The iron racks that collapsed at the warehouse in Whitefield, Bengaluru, on Thursday.

The iron racks that collapsed at the warehouse in Whitefield, Bengaluru, on Thursday.  

Two persons arrested; police say there were at least 50 workers at the spot

Three workers were killed and five were injured when metal racks laden with plastic crates containing apparel fell like dominoes in an over 10,000 sq. ft warehouse at Seegehalli, Whitefield, on Thursday. The incident occurred around 12.30 p.m. while the employees were stacking goods on the racks that were reportedly overloaded.

Four employees — Farooq, 22, Subhash, 26, Jnan Dharshan, 25, and Ramakanth (also in his 20s) — were trapped under the racks for more than five hours before rescue personnel reached them. However, Fire and Emergency Services personnel were able to rescue only Ramakanth.

“The other three were dead by the time our teams were able to extricate them, between 5.30 p.m. and 6 p.m.,” said Shivanna B. from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). The other injured have been identified as Kuladeep, warehouse in-charge; Janakiram, Narayanaswamy, and Baahubali.

According to the police, around 50 to 60 staff members were working in the warehouse and many ran outside when they saw the racks toppling. “I saw the racks falling one after the other and I ran out of the warehouse. I could hear my colleagues screaming as the racks fell on them,” said eyewitness Diganth, who joined the company six months ago.

More feared trapped

Unable to account for all the employees, search and rescue operations went on well into the night on Thursday. “We suspect that more people could be trapped inside, and will continue operations till we secure the entire warehouse,” said Pradeep K.K., State Emergency Coordinator, NDRF.

Police suspect racks were overloaded

The police are yet to ascertain what caused the heavy metal racks laden with crates to topple over one another in the warehouse.

The exact cause of the incident is not known. “We suspect that the racks had been overloaded with goods. Unable to bear the the weight, they gave way and fell on each other, trapping the workers. Investigations are on to ascertain the exact reason. We have not ruled out foul play,” said Abdul Ahad, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Whitefield.

Two people associated with the New Delhi-based startup Holisol Logistics, which owns the warehouse, have been arrested. Business head Ajay and site in charge Amanullah have been charged with death due to negligence.

“Hundreds of iron racks were stacked close to each other,” said a senior police officer.

Suresh Babu, husband of the Seegehalli Gram Panchayat president K. Savita and who was at the spot, said the incident was a blot on the area. “It is the innocent who have died for the greed of others,” he said. He alleged that the godown had been overstocked, with the 30-ft-high racks carrying tonnes of products. The godown had 30 racks stacked barely 2 ft from each other. “Each box weighed at least 50 to 60 kg, and was filled with clothes, shoes, and other products. It was difficult to lift even one box. Imagine when dozens of boxes fall down. The racks clearly didn’t have the strength to carry this amount of weight,” he said.

Senior officials from the Fire and Emergency Services said the warehouse had four doors, but two of them were locked, and this prevented more workers from escaping.

“The warehouse has no safety measures even though there are more than 60 people working there,” said a senior police officer.

Manish Ahuja, co-founder of Holisol Logistics, said, “This is a very unusual and unfortunate event; we are there with all our co-workers and their families. Our priority is to provide best care and support to them.”

The death toll would have been higher if around 25 employees had not stepped out for a tea break.

“While we were having tea, we heard a huge noise. We went into the warehouse and saw at least 200 racks collapsing on each other. People were stuck inside. Others were jumping over the fallen racks trying to escape,” said Balvindar, a security guard.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 9:10:36 PM |

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