An explosion, followed by a fire, in the storage tank of a chemical factory in Dahej, in Gujarat’s Bharuch district, killed at least eight workers and injured at least 50 of them around noon Wednesday.
According to the Bharuch District Disaster Management Department, over 200 workers, most of them migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, were at the site of Yashashvi Rasayan Private Ltd at the time of the incident.
A preliminary investigation report by Vijaysinh Parmar, Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Vagra, said, “The fire broke out due to a blast in the storage tank… 11 fire fighters were rushed in and six ambulances were used to shift the injured ones to the hospital.”
Parmar report, submitted to Bharuch District Collector M D Modia, indicated negligence. “There was no responsible person present in the factory… the attendance register at the entry gate of the factory had entries of 231 persons… Five bodies were found from near the storage tank,” the report said.
Officials said the blast – reason for which is not yet known – triggered a fire that soon spread to other sections of the factory. They said “highly concentrated chemicals” fell on the labourers working in nearby chambers, with a few of them dying on the spot.
At least 32 injured workers were admitted to Bharuch Civil Hospital and the others to private hospitals, with some of them in a critical condition. The district administration also evacuated around 4,800 people from two neighbouring villages as a precautionary measure.
Soon after the blast, there were reports of a stampede-like situation as workers tried to rush out.
In one of the videos shot by an eyewitness, a worker covered in soot is seen running out, seeking help for others trapped inside. The worker, who has not yet been identified, was taken to hospital.
Parmar said, “The fire that started around noon was brought under control at 5.30 pm with the combined effort of fire personnel and disaster management officials… ” Rescue operations are still on to find if any labourers are trapped inside, he added.
Bharuch District Collector Modia said, “We have sent senior officials to investigate the incident. Around 50 workers were injured and are in hospitals. There were Methanol and Xylene chemical tanks near the storage tank that exploded. Both these chemicals are highly poisonous and flammable… as a precautionary measure, we have evacuated 3,000 villagers from Lakhi village and 1,800 from Luvara village to safer places. The condition of some of the injured workers undergoing treatment in hospitals is critical.”
Bharuch District Superintendent of Police, Rajendrasinh Chudasma, said, “We have registered a case of accidental death and started a probe. Eight people died and the figure may go up after the entire factory is surveyed. We are trying to get in touch with owners of the company.”