Thirteen people died and over 20 seriously injured in an explosion at a firecracker unit in Achankulam village near Sattur in Virudunagar district on Friday afternoon.

Of the 13, nine bodies were recovered in a charred condition from the spot and two people died at the Sattur Government Hospital.

According to police, it was difficult to identify the bodies since they are totally charred. An officer of the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue services department said equipment from three fire stations were deployed to bring the blaze under control. It took over three hours to put out the fire.

The blaze started on Friday afternoon at the Mariyammal firework unit. The police are still investigating the cause of the incident and are on the lookout for the owner of the factory. “Around 50 labourers had been working in the unit when the accident took place,” said District Fire Officer Ganesan.

District collector R Kannan visited the spot to oversee the rescue operation. The police have registered a case and preliminary investigations are on.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the deaths in the incident and announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to each of those seriously injured.