NDRF personnel go through the rubble at the explosion site in Modinagar on Sunday
GHAZIABAD: Seven women and a minor boy died and more than a dozen others were injured in an explosion in an illegal factory making birthday sparklers in Ghaziabad’s Modinagar on Sunday.
There were around 30-40 daily wagers in the factory, mostly women, girls and a few boys, who had joined work to augment the family income during the lockdown.
Chief fire officer Sunil Kumar Singh said the blaze caused by the 3.15pm explosion wasn’t massive in itself, but the intensity of the blast caused the girders and the ceiling to collapse. Till late on Sunday evening, an NDRF team was still looking for bodies under the debris. There were reports of two minor girls missing since the blast.
Officials said the cause of the explosion was not immediately clear. The deceased were identified as Poonam, Baby, Chinki, Jago, Rohit, Sahinoor, Munesh and Laxmi, all residents of the village where the factory is located. The factory workers said the flames caused by the explosion were so sudden that most did not get a chance to escape.
Four to five sacks of explosive material were kept inside the factory, which is spread over 1,700 sqft and located in the middle of the densely populated village. It did not have permission from the administration either.
‘There was a huge explosion, we were hit by balls of fire’
A few women and I were working in the veranda, while more than 30 others were in two other rooms. There was a huge explosion and we were hit by balls of fire. My face, hands and back were burnt. I tried to look inside for the others, but there were flames and smoke everywhere. We broke a wall, which was already damaged from the explosion, and came out,” said Rajan, one of the workers.
Local villagers were the first rescuers. Some of those badly injured were sent to hospitals in private cars. Sources said many of the women had joined the factory after their husbands were rendered jobless during the lockdown. “I was sitting at home because I had no job. My wife told me she could earn Rs 6,000 by working in the factory, which is located in our village itself. I could not have refused her. We got free ration, but there are other expenses to meet,” said Praveen, Geeta’s husband Two teenage girls — Ishu and her friend Parul — are missing since the explosion. Ishu’s mother Uma Devi said it was her daughter’s first day at the factory. “I enquired from so many people and nearby hospitals, but she was nowhere to be found,” she said. Chief minister Yogi Adityanath expressed grief over the explosion and sought a report from the administration by Sunday night itself.
District magistrate Ajay Shankar Pandey, SSP Kalanidhi Naithani and local MLA Manju Shiwach reached the spot to pacify the angry crowd, which demanded strict action against the police for allowing the factory to run despite no permission from the authorities. The DM announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh each to the family of the deceased. Pandey said the administration would also bear the cost of treatment of the injured. A magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the blast. Mohammad Rafiq, the local outpost in-charge, was suspended for dereliction of duty and not informing the administration about the illegal factory. “The factory is owned by Nitin Chaudhary, a resident of the same village. An FIR is being registered against him,” the SSP said. Nitin, whose house is located just opposite the factory, is untraceable. The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear. A forensic team collected samples from the factory after the flames were doused.
Villagers said the factory had been operating illegally in a residential area for about five years. Even during the lockdown, it continued to function.