Chennai: 37 people have been killed and at least 60 have been injured in a huge fire at a fire-cracker factory in Mudalipetti, near Sivakasi, in Tamil Nadu. The fire has been extinguished completely and the police say they don't expect any more people to be trapped in debris.
Over 300 people were believed to have been inside the factory, Om Siva Sakthi Crackers, when the fire broke out at about 12:30 pm. Most of the workers reportedly managed to escape the building and many of those killed were people standing outside the factory. Many by standers were also injured by sparks that flew while some others were affected by the strong fumes.
Those seriously injured have been taken to the government hospitals in Madurai and Virudhnagar. The others are in a government hospital in Sivakasi.
Major safety violations had been found at the factory and the Explosives Department had suspended its licence only yesterday - it should not have been running operations today.
All 60 rooms in the building have been reported to be gutted. These include 20 rooms that stored chemicals. The fire also spread to godowns about 200 feet away. Two of three godowns in the factory have been burnt down. Ten fire tenders were sent to the spot. They approached the burning factory cautiously. Explosions were heard and huge gusts of fire billowed out of the building. Fire and rescue officials have said that the blaze began at the factory's filling room. The cause of the fire will be known only after the investigation, they said.
At about 5 pm Najmul Huda, Superintendent of Police, Sivakasi said, "The fire has been brought under control now. Blasts and explosions went on for quite some time, so we couldn't go in. Fire fighters will go in now."
Sivakasi is India's biggest hub for the manufacture of matches and fire crackers. Work to meet the Diwali demand for crackers has been on in full swing in Sivakasi factories and factories have employees at work in full strength.