The death toll in a blast at an unauthorized firecracker factory in a residential area in Batala town in Punjab’s Gurdaspur has risen to 23. Twenty other people were injured in the explosion.
Dozens were trapped after the factory was completely destroyed down in the blast on Wednesday evening.
Senior Superintendent of Police Upinderjit Singh Ghumman said that the firecracker manufacturing unit was running illegally and its licence to manufacture crackers had expired in 2013.
The state government in a tweet said Rural Development and Panchayats Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa is overseeing the relief and rescue operations. He visited the Civil Hospital in Batala again in the morning to inquire about the health of the victims.
Rescuers ended their search of survivors a day after buildings were badly damaged in explosions following a blaze at the unauthorised firecracker manufacturing unit on Wednesday.
The dead included the firecracker manufacturing unit’s owner and six of his family members.
Seven grievously injured were referred to the Guru Nanak Hospital in Amritsar, Deputy Commissioner Vipul Ujwal said, and admitted that the factory owner had applied for the renewal of licence to manufacture the crackers.
A number of nearby buildings, including a car workshop, were badly damaged in the explosion. An elderly woman and her grandchild, who were passing close to the disaster spot, were among the dead.
Even a few stranded vehicles were flung up in the air with the blast.
The cause of the blast, which damaged the buildings in radius up to 200 metres, is yet to be ascertained, police said.
The government ordered a magisterial probe into the incident.
Meanwhile, Cabinet Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who reached the accident spot on Wednesday, announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of the dead and Rs 50,000 for the injured.
Locals complained the firecracker unit was running illegally for the past many years. It was manufacturing and storing crackers for the wedding anniversary celebrations of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev, popularly known as ‘Babe da Viah’.
A large number of family members of victims raised slogans against the state government over its failure to check the operation of unauthorized factory in the residential area.
Local legislator Lakhbir Singh Lodhinangal blamed the administrative failure to check the operation of unauthorized firecracker factory.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday expressed his anguish over the loss of lives in the mishap.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in Russia, also expressed his grief over the loss of lives in the tragedy and extended his condolences to the families of the deceased.
The tragedy at a firecracker factory in Punjab is heart-wrenching. Deeply anguished due to it. My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. I hope the injured recover at the earliest. Agencies are working on rescue operations at the site of the tragedy: PM
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) September 5, 2019