At least 21 killed in blast at cracker factory in Punjab’s Batala

PUNJAB: ¬†At least 21 people have killed and much are feared trapped after a massive explosion took place today at an unauthorized firecracker manufacturing factory in a densely-populated residential area in Punjab’s Gurdaspur.

Inspector General (Border Range) SPS Parmar said that the impact of the explosion was such that the factory was completely destroyed and nearby buildings, including a car workshop, were damaged too.The cause of the explosion is yet to be determined.

Locals complained the firecracker unit was running illegally for the past many years. It were manufacturing and storing crackers for a ‘nagar kirtan’ – a religious procession relating to the birth anniversary celebrations of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev – slated to reach the town late Wednesday evening, news agency IANS reported.

“The firecracker factory has been working in this locality for the many years. We have complained against the factory seven-eight times to the local administration, but no action has been taken against it,” a local resident told the media.He said a similar blast occurred in this area in January 2017, leaving one person dead and three injured.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said rescue operations are underway with the District Collector and the Senior Superintendent of Police heading the relief efforts.”Deeply anguished to learn of the loss of lives due to the blast in the firecracker factory in Batala. Rescue operations are underway with the DC & SSP heading the relief efforts,” he tweeted.

Gurdaspur MP Sunny Deol too expressed grief over the incident. “Saddened to hear about the news of blast in Batala factory. NDRF teams and local administration have been rushed for rescue operation,” Mr Deol said in his tweet.

Teams of the National Disaster Response Force or NDRF and the State Disaster Response Force or SDRF are aiding rescue operations. Senior police and district administration are also present at the spot.