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HomemaharashtraNagpur explosives unit blast: Cops register case, record statement; ATS, IB teams...

Nagpur explosives unit blast: Cops register case, record statement; ATS, IB teams visit site

Nagpur: Police have registered a case against unidentified persons in connection with the blast at an explosives manufacturing factory in Maharashtra’s Nagpur district which claimed nine lives, while ATS and IB are investigating the incident from sabotage and terror angles, officials said on Monday.

Officials of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and Intelligence Bureau visited the blast site at Solar Industries India Pvt Ltd on Sunday and Monday and conducted a thorough inquiry. They checked the boundary walls, CCTV footage and entry records of the factory, an ATS official said.

He said the ATS is investigating whether terror angle in the incident.

Meanwhile, after registering the case, police recorded the statement of a company supervisor, officials said.

According to the supervisor, some workers and an apprentice supervisor were engaged in sieving (when the explosive raw material is sieved before use) of the TNT at the cast booster house in the company at the time of the incident, police said.

Search teams have recovered several body parts from the site at the Solar Industries India factory in Chakdoh area, they said.

The body parts have been sent to a government hospital for post-mortem and DNA analysis to identify the deceased, according to sources.

The case has been registered against unidentified persons under Indian Penal Code sections 304 (a) (causing death by negligence) and 286 (negligent conduct with respect to explosive substance) on a complaint of Kondhali police station’s assistant police inspector Pankaj Waghode.

He said the accused would be identified during the investigation.

Police recorded the statement of supervisor Pradip Ambole (30), a resident of Nagpur, who was on duty when the incident occurred.

Ambole told the police that he, along with packing and loading operators, identified only as Aade and Lanjewar, were on sieving duty at the cast booster house in the company from 6 am.

“At 8.45 am, I went to the washroom. Earlier, Aade and Lanjewar had left the cast booster house to keep a box in the TNT office, while other workers and an apprentice supervisor were engaged in sieving of the TNT. When I was in the toilet, I heard the blast,” the FIR quoted Ambole as saying.

Ambole rushed out of the washroom only to see the collapsed building and smoke emanating from the debris, as per the FIR.

Sources said the body parts recovered from the site have been sent to the Government Medical College & Hospital (GMCH) here in separate packets for postmortem and DNA analysis to identify the deceased.

The remains of the victims will be sent for forensic analysis before being handed over to the relatives, they said.

Work was on to remove debris from the blast site, a senior police official said.

Raising the issue in the legislative council on Monday, opposition MLCs alleged lapses by the company in ensuring the safety of workers and demanded action against Industrial Safety Department officials.

Opposition leader Ambadas Danve (Shiv Sena-UBT) demanded a report from the Nagpur district collector to fix accountability and demanded action against officials concerned from the Industrial Safety Department. Danve, who visited the blast site, said the bodies of the deceased were dismembered.

“Mandatory safety drills had not been conducted at the company and even officials from the industrial safety department were denied access to the premises,” he said.

Danve said workers at the factory were forced into early morning shifts after working late the previous night.

Congress MLC Shashikant Shinde said, “This isn’t the first time that an explosion occurred in the company. There were two such incidents in the past.”

Referring to the Rs 20 lakh compensation announced by the company to the victims and Rs 5 lakh by the state government, Shinde wondered whether the government is placing a monetary value on the lives of innocent people.

“Around 4,000 workers are employed on a daily wage basis in the company on a meagre Rs 10,000 per month,” he said and demanded permanent employment for them.

Congress MLC Bhai Jagtap said while the minimum wage is Rs 12,000 in Maharashtra, the company was paying only Rs 10,500 per month to the workers.

He demanded that the services of workers be regularised.

Solar Industries India senior general manager Ashish Srivastava on Sunday said the incident occurred in the building where boosters used in coal mines are produced. “It took place when sealing work of the product was going on”.

The explosion occurred when the workers were engaged in the production and packaging of Trinitrotoluene (TNT) chemical, a potent yellow explosive material widely used in military applications, a police official said.

The bodies of nine workers, who were in the 6 am to 2 pm shift, were blown to pieces following the blast. The single-floor facility also collapsed and the body parts were trapped under the debris, he said.

The high-intensity explosion was even heard by locals some kilometres away from the site. After the incident, angry locals and relatives of workers blocked the Amravati-Nagpur highway running along the site of the explosives manufacturing unit. The police pacified them and dispersed the crowd.

To locate the bodies, the police used drones above the accident site and deployed a bomb detection and disposal squad along with a forensic team for evidence collection, an official said.

The factory falls under the jurisdiction of the Petroleum & Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO) and its officials were conducting an inquiry into the incident, the police said.

(Published 18 December 2023, 09:15 IST)

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