A massive explosion at Naihati in West Bengal today blew the roofs of some houses in the suburban town, sent two policemen to hospital, injured locals and triggered such public anger, several police vehicles were vandalized and at least two jeeps set ablaze.
A huge cloud of smoke billowed into the air after the blast and could be seen for miles.
Opposition BJP has suggested an RDX blast and demanded a National Investigation Agency or NIA probe into the explosion.
The explosion occurred when police were conducting controlled detonation of firecrackers it had recovered from a factory at Naihati that went up in flames on January 3. Four people were killed in that blaze that had also triggered some explosions on Friday.
When the so-called firecrackers were set off on the banks of the river Hooghly at Naihati this afternoon, 44 km from Kolkata, the explosion shook up a huge area, including Chinsurah town across the river. Some homes there too developed cracks.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has declared compensation for people whose homes were damaged.
State BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said, "The incident sent shivers down my spine. Pictures of the blast reminded me of Hiroshima and could be heard for 15-20 miles away. You cannot cover up an explosion this size with some compensation. The police who detonated the so called firecrackers had no idea what the explosive was. Was it RDX? There is a sense of terror across the state. "
BJP MP Locket Chatterjee who visited the spot demanded an NIA probe "What exploded was no firecracker. This could the handiwork of jihadis just like it was in Khagragarh. Bengal is sitting on a bomb and Didi can't get away with saying it was a firecracker factory," she said.
CPM leader Md Salim said, "In the Trinamool regime, bomb making has become a cottage industry. Party leaders are involved which is why the chief minister passes them off as fire crackers factories and a proper investigation is never carried out."
Trinamool leader Partha Chatterjee said, "We all know how many people were killed in the last regime. There has been an explosion and there will be a probe. No need to do politics over it."
Soon after the explosion, an angry mob set fire to police vans. Locals were agitated since January 3 when a fire and blast at the Naihati fireworks factory left 4 workers, including two women, dead. Several other workers had sustained burn injuries.
A case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and other non-bailable sections was registered against the factory owner, Noor Hossain, who was arrested.
Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar tweeted a picture of the explosion and said there must be a thorough probe into the incident.
The explosion leaves nothing to imagination. It calls for thorough probe in view of its seriousness, intensity and damage caused. Only expert investigation can unearth issues involved. This ominous development should be eye opener for law enforcing and regulatory regime in State. pic.twitter.com/4mD0nHnkCg— Jagdeep Dhankhar (@jdhankhar1) January 9, 2020
According to the police, controlled detonation was going on for a few days. Today, instead of detonating the fireworks in batches, they were set off in one go. Police is sending a forensic team to the site of the explosion for a full investigation.
A young boy was trapped in the debris that showered upon him after the explosion. His mother had to physically remove the debris to rescue him. A student said she was studying with her back to the window when the glass from the window panes came showering down on her.
In Chinsurah town opposite to Naihati across the Hooghly river, the Chandannagar police commissioner was heckled when he arrived at the spot where several houses were damaged.