Five persons were killed and one injured in a blast that rocked Cordite Factory, a defence establishment, at Aruvankadu on the Ooty-Coonoor highway on Thursday.
The explosion was so powerful that it was heard over a wide area, and under its impact items fell off shelves in many houses in villages that surrounded Aruvankadu.
People who came out of their houses immediately after the explosion saw thick smoke rising from a part of the sprawling factory premises.
A pall of gloom descended on the factory, which employs 1,893 persons, and its surroundings.
Factory general manager Ashok Kumar told The Hindu that when the explosion took place at 3.15 p.m. in the propellant manufacturing unit only six persons were at work.
An intermediary process of mixing dough (a nitrocellulose-nitroglycerine paste) was in progress when the explosion occurred. It brought down a part of the building.
One of the workers, Ilango, escaped with injuries; one body in a mutilated state with the face disfigured was recovered.
With bits and pieces of flesh being recovered from the debris the other four are also feared dead.
The victims are Anand (chargeman), Gopi, Balasubramani, Subramani and Jayaraj.
To a query, he said ten persons suffered minor injuries on being hit by shards from glass panes shattered in the impact.
A high-level investigation by a multi-disciplinary team has been ordered.
Mr. Ashok Kumar ruled out sabotage.