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8 killed in explosion at fireworks factory in India’s Tamil Nadu

Eight people, including five women workers, were killed in an explosion at a fireworks manufacturing factory near Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu of India. Twelve others suffered burns.

Friction during handling of chemicals is suspected to have triggered the explosion at Sri Sudharshan Fireworks in Virudhunagar district.

“It’s a licensed unit. They manufacture fancy fireworks. We suspect friction during mixing of chemicals led to the explosion. We are investigating,” district SP K Feroze Khan Abdullah told NDTV.

Videos show huge smoke billowing from the area and minor explosions continuing as rescuers cautiously approached the cottages. Visuals also show an injured person being taken on a wheelbarrow from the site.
Over the last few years the firecracker capital of India has been seeing a series of fatal explosions. In October last year alone, 27 people were killed in less than a fortnight. This month, three were killed in an explosion at a stone quarry.

Experts blame it on blatant safety violations, including deploying many workers with no training and knowledge of the chemicals they deal with and the right way to handle them. “99 per cent of the explosions at the factories happen due to human error,” says Dr V Sriram, a fire safety expert.

He says wrong handling of chemicals during mixing of explosives violate norms. While only half a kilo of explosives can be handled at a time, often up to 60 kg of explosives are given to groups ahead of Diwali season to meet deadlines.

This leads to devastation and huge loss of lives in the event of an explosion. Dr Sriram also blames it on use of banned chemicals.

Though arrests are usually made, there has been no improvement in fire safety in Sivakasi. Experts have been urging the state government to conduct safety audits at all fireworks manufacturing units, so the issue can be addressed and fixed in a scientific way.

No arrests have been made yet in Thursday’s case. Chief Minister MK Stalin has condoled loss of lives, and said relief would be awarded to affected families after obtaining the Election Commission’s nod due to the model code.