Sunday, May 11, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

8 die in factory fire
Tribune News Service

Rescue and fire fighting team in action
Rescue and fire fighting team in action during a fire in the Khud Mohalla area in Ludhiana on Saturday. Photo Inderjit Verma

Ludhiana, May 10
As many as 10 persons are feared dead and 85 others injured, 15 of them seriously, in a massive fire that broke out in a hosiery factory located in a narrow lane of Khud Mohalla near the Civil Hospital today. The tragic part was that most of the victims had entered the building to save the 30 persons trapped inside.

The district administration has, however, confirmed eight deaths only but according to sources the number is 10. Of the injured, 57 were at the CMC, 20 at the Civil Hospital, eight at Oswal hospital and three at the DMC.

The incident took place at about 1.30 p.m. A two-storey building which housed the factory was completely gutted. The fire also engulfed several adjoining residential buildings.

The victims include the hosiery owner, Gurcharan Singh Goggi, and several members of his family. Four firemen of the local municipal corporation were also injured. Five policemen also suffered minor injuries. The bodies have not been identified as most of them were burnt beyond recognition. Only two have been identified as that of Pappu and Bholi, who lived near the factory.

There were about 40 persons in the building when the fire broke out. When residents of the area rushed in to help, 25 of them were caught in the flames when they opened a door of the building to rescue the trapped persons behind which there were some tins containing certain chemicals, which tumbled down.

Eye-witnesses said a powerful blast took place in the factory and then some tins of chemicals caught fire. The exact cause of fire was, however, yet to be ascertained. The fact that whether the LPG cylinder blew off first leading to the fire was still being examined.

However, Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) officials claimed that no LPG cylinder blast had taken place. They said the fire could have been caused by a short circuit.

Six persons were charred to death in a few seconds. Some of them were even reduced to ashes. Six fire tenders struggled for an hour to control the flames.

The location of the hosiery in a narrow lane of the old city hampered the rescue and fire-fighting operations. Fire tenders had to actually break walls of an adjoining house to douse the flames.

Teams of officials of the district administration, led by Deputy Commissioner Anurag Aggarwal, MC chief S.K. Sharma, and local police officials were seen supervising the rescue operations. Medical teams from the CMC, DMC and Civil Hospital also reached the spot.

MC Commissioner here said they would bear the medical expenses of the injured firemen. He said the Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, had said suitable reward would be given to firefighters who had displayed exemplary courage.

The Deputy Commissioner told The Tribune that a high-level inquiry had been ordered into the incident. An SDM-level official would be conducting it.

The Punjab Chief Minister has also announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh to the next of the kin of the deceased. The state government would also bear the medical expenses of those injured.

The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today expressed grief over the tragic incident in which nine persons were killed and 60 injured following an explosion of a gas cylinder in a house-cum-factory at Ludhiana.

Capt Amarinder Singh directed the district and police administrations to extend all possible help to next of kin of the deceased and the injured. He also directed the Deputy Commissioner, Ludhiana, to ensure proper and timely medical aid to the injured.

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