27 people have been killed in a series of explosions at multiple firecracker units in Tamil Nadu this month. The death count in Tuesday’s twin explosions near Sivakasi, the fireworks capital of India, has risen to 14.
Fire safety experts have said that untrained workers are largely responsible for the spate of disasters. Using banned chemicals is another prominent reason for the blasts.
Dr V Sriram, a fire safety expert, says that in most cases the workers, largely women, are not trained professionally to understand the chemicals they deal with and the right way to handle them.
“99% of accidents at fireworks units are due to human error. New recruits in particular are inducted straight into work with no training. There is no mechanism to ensure all workers are trained,” Dr Sriram added.
Experts point out that in most cases, fires or explosions break out in the chemical mixing area due to incorrect handling or violation of norms. Additionally, workers often drag boxes with chemicals while they should use a special cart with coir woven wheels to avoid friction.
Dr Sriram said, “Workers should mix only half a kg of explosives at a time. But in the past they have been seen handling up to 60 kg at once.” This violation significantly contributes to the heavy loss of life.
A day after the twin blasts in Tamil Nadu, Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu and Labour Welfare and Skill Development Minister CV Ganesan participated in a review meeting that focused on identifying causes for the explosions at Sivakasi.
When asked about violations despite periodic inspections, Mr Ganesan said, “We will take stringent action against officials if violations are found. A team supervised by the collector, including the fire officer, carry out periodic inspections regularly”.
Speaking to String Reveals, a police officer said, “We have arrested three people including the owner. Testing of crackers ought to be done in a distance from the outlet or storage but the workers have done it closer as it was about to rain. This is a violation.”
In the second incident, one person was killed in an explosion during mixing of chemicals. “We have arrested the Foreman in this case,” the officer added.