Sabotage cannot be ruled out: Kodiyeri

Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan  

Biju Govind

Says exact cause is being ascertained by the Special Investigation Team

Probe on to whether the shop had proper licence Controller of Explosives and Intelligence Bureau are also inquring

Kozhikode: Among the various theories being put under the scanner following the major fire that broke out in the commercial area of the city on Thursday morning is the possibility of sabotage.

The firecracker shop from where the fire started reportedly had proper wiring and earth leakage circuit breaker facility to avert accidents caused by short circuit. The fact that witnesses heard two explosions strengthened suspicions that foul play was involved.

Speaking to The Hindu , Minister for Home and Vigilance Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said sabotage could not be ruled out in the incident. "However, the exact cause of the fire can be ascertained only after getting the reports of the Special Investigation Team of the City Police and the report of the Additional District Magistrate," he said.

So far, preliminary reports do not suggest sabotage as a cause of the accident that killed six persons, injured several people and gutted more than a dozen shops on the busy Moideen Palli Road linking Sweet Meat Street and Kallai Road at Palayam, he said.

The issue of handing over the investigation to any other agency, including the Crime Branch, would depend on these reports, Mr. Balakrishnan said.

Apart from the Police and Revenue Departments launching separate investigations, the Controller of Explosives based in Kochi and the Intelligence Bureau are also inquiring into the tragedy.

North Zone Inspector General of Police M.N. Krishnamurthy had already constituted a Special Investigation Team led by the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime Detachment) V. Chandran to investigate into the incident. The inquiry will look into the aspects such as whether the firecracker shop had valid licence and whether the licencee had stocked authorised quantity of explosives and exact cause of the fire, he said.

"Inquiry would also be conducted whether the shop owner had kept explosives in the shop," Mr. Krishnamurthy said.

Eyewitnesses said that they heard loud explosions inside the shop suggesting the blast of a bomb. "It was a deafening sound unlike the bursting of crackers in succession," said an eyewitness.

Glass panes of many shops and buildings in and around Palayam within a radius of half-a-kilometre of the incident site were shattered in the impact of the explosion. The sound of the explosion was heard at Nadakkavu, 4 km away from the site.

The fire also raised several issues, including the wisdom of granting licences and the desirability of allowing firecracker shops to function in crowded places. An initial inquiry indicated that the shop stocked more firecrackers than the permitted quantity in view of the Vishu season. Two truckloads of crackers were also unloaded at the shop on Thursday, Mr. Krishnamurthy said.