M A I N   N E W S

30 hurt as blast rocks Amritsar Dist Courts
Varinder Walia and Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, February 19
A powerful explosion in the District Courts complex adjoining the offices of the Deputy Commissioner, the district police chief and judicial courts rocked the city today, injuring at least 30 persons. The blast left a trail of destruction, damaging the Civil Lines and Sadar police stations, Government Women’s College and far off buildings.

Even the huge building of the new secretariat which is yet to be occupied suffered massive damage with almost all glasspanes broken.

Panic stricken officials and residents of surrounding areas came out of their offices and residences on hearing the deafening sound of the blast at 4.30 p.m. At least 50 chambers of lawyers, Wasika Nawis and some kiosks belonging to the police department were badly damaged. Had the blast occurred before lunch the damage to the life could have been tremendous.

The ceilings of the offices of the SP and DSPs caved in. The blasts created two craters just behind the Malkhana building.

According to Ashwani Sodhi, a deed writer, he saw sparks triggered by a small fire as some persons were trying to burn some ‘waste material’. Immediately thereafter two massive blasts shock the entire complex and enveloped it in clouds of dark smoke.

Mr D.S. Bajwa, a retired Executive Engineer, whose two-storey house was damaged in the blast, said even wooden frames of his building had come off. Mr Bajwa showed his luxury car, parked in the garage which was badly damaged.

The Army’s explosive experts were called to collect the pieces of explosive from the crater caused by the blast to identify the nature of the explosive.

The impact of the blast was so immense that it broke the windowpanes of over 200 houses. A large number of vehicles were also damaged in the nearby residential colonies of Rani Ka Bagh, Ranjit Avenue and The Mall.

Senior police officials, including Mr J.P. Birdi and Mr Paramjit Singh Gill, I.G. and D.I.G. (Border Range), however, ruled out the possibility of terrorist activity. They said certain employees were disposing off the waste material of ‘Malkhana’ which stored heavy quantity of grenades, explosives, including RDX and hundreds of live cartridges. The police officials said that the explosives and assault rifles were stacked in the ‘Malkhana’ in an unscientific way which could lead to more disasters if precautionary steps were not taken immediately.

The impact of the blast could be gauged from the fact that immense damage was done to the building of the Government Women’s College, which is more than 200 metres away from the site.

The police cordoned off the entire court complex even as curious onlookers thronged the site. The District Sessions Judge, Mr M.R. Batra along with his colleagues personally inspected the site.

Among the 30 injured eight have been admitted to Kakar hospital, seven to Civil Lines hospital and four to the Jallianwalla memorial hospital.

Those admitted to Kakar hospital are Baldev Singh, son of Pal Singh; Subhash Chand, a peon in DC’s office and son of Gian Chand, Rohit Kumar clerk in DC’s office and son of Arun Kumar, also an employee of DC’s office; Ramesh Kumar, a type mechanic; Ganesh Das a Sub-inspector, son of Hansraj; Ranjit Kumar, son of Manohar Lal; Rajesh, son of Chunni Lal, a shopkeeper and Jatinder Chauhan, son of Diwan Chand Chauhan.

Seven have been admitted to Guru Nanak Dev Hospital. They are Harpreet Singh, son of Joginder; Mandeep Singh, son of Prithpal; Charanjiv, son of Arjun Singh; Sunny, son of Mohinder; Rawail Singh, son of Musha, Major Singh, son of Sawinder Singh and Rishu Soni, son of Vijay Soni.

Four more have been admitted in Jallianwala Civil Hospital. The include, Ramesh Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Vipin Pali and Chauwari Lal.

Meanwhile, a sum of Rs 2000 has been announced from the Chief Minister’s fund for the injured. The Red Cross is giving free medicine and medical aid free of cost.

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