9 dead in blast at illegal Bengal firecracker unit, CM orders CID probe.

An explosion at an illegal firecracker unit in Egra in East Midnapore district of West Bengal killed nine people and critically injured seven others on Tuesday afternoon, said, superintendent of police (SP) of East Midnapore district Amarnath K.

The impact of the explosion was such that the factory collapsed, said police, adding that some of the victims were flung metres away from the shed due to the impact.

Within three hours of the incident, chief minister Mamata Banerjee ordered a probe by the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and announced a compensation of 2.5lakh each for the kin of deceased and 1 lakh each for the injured.

“The owner of the illegal factory used to sell fireworks to people in Odisha and Bangladesh. He has escaped to Odisha, according to information collected by the police. He will not be spared. The police arrested him on October 19 last year and the factory was sealed. The police submitted chargesheet in the case but this man was granted bail by a local court,” said Banerjee.

All the deceased and the injured people were factory workers, said Banerjee.

“We will take action against the inspector-in-charge of Egra police station. Why didn’t he have information that the factory was running again,” Banerjee, who is also in charge of the home department, told reporters at the secretariat.

Eyewitnesses said, local residents who gathered at the spot roughed up the inspector-in-charge of Egra police station, Mousam Chakraborty, when he reached the spot alleging that the authorities took no action although six explosions took place in the same factory over the last four years.

“Police are the custodian (of law). Strong action must be taken against those assaulting law enforcers. I believe people have the right to demonstrate, but they must not assault policemen,” Banerjee said.

The president of West Bengal wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Sukanta Majumdar said he will seek a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the explosion. “The NIA is already probing similar explosions that have taken place in recent years…,” he added.

“I urge @HMOIndia & Hon’ble @BengalGovernor to initiate @NIA_India investigation as early as possible. Bengal has become the stockpile of explosives…,” leader of opposition Suvendu Adhikari also tweeted.

Speaking on the BJP demand for an NIA probe, Banerjee said she has no objection to the central agency taking over the investigation. “We do not have any objection to the NIA probe if they arrest the real culprit. But I would like to point out that the probe by the CID has already started,” she said.

Local residents said more people might have been killed at the location. “We are draining a pond next to the factory to verify the claim (that more people died in the explosion),” said Amarnath K.

Tuesday’s explosion was the third in East Midnapore district which happens to be the home ground of leader of the opposition in the state legislative assembly, Suvendu Adhikari. He is the legislator from the district’s Nandigram seat.

In December 2021, three people died at Nodakhali in South 24 Parganas district. Three more died at Bhupatinagar in East Midnapore in December last year. In March this year, an explosion claimed three lives at an illegal factory at Maheshtala in South 24 Parganas.

Source- Hindustan Times.

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