M A I N   N E W S

8 die in Jalandhar factory collapse
l Scores of workers trapped under rubble l Army, relief teams called in l Rescue ops on war-footing
Dharmendra Joshi/TNS

Jalandhar, April 16
At least eight employees of a blanket-manufacturing unit were killed and 55 others hurt after a four-storey building in Focal Point Extension here collapsed late last night. Several workers are feared trapped inside even as the rescue operations are on.

Tragedy struck at Shital Fibres around 11.30 pm on Sunday when over 300 employees were working over-time, according to some workers. Most of the employees were migrants from UP and Bihar.

Factory owner Shital Vij said the exact number of workers in the unit could not be ascertained as the attendance register lay buried as well. He said around 70 workers could have been inside when tragedy struck. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Commandant SK Verma said two bodies had been extricated whereas six were spotted under a collapsed beam.

While the exact cause of the accident is not known, NDRF Assistant Commandant Musaphir Ram said the building seemed to have collapsed due to poor construction. Shital Fibres MD Abhishek Vij said the factory was constructed four years ago. Relatives and friends of the trapped workers complained of the tardy pace of rescue operations and raised slogans against the administration. Police Commissioner Gaurav Yadav managed to persuade the mob to allow smooth conduct of operations.

Residents living near the factory were among the first to reach the site along with police and fire brigade personnel. The Army and the NDRF were called in after Deputy Commissioner Priyank Bharti and other officers realised the magnitude of the disaster.

Kuldeep Patial of nearby Guru Amar Dass Nagar told The Tribune that he along with 10-odd youths of the locality reached the accident site shortly after hearing a loud noise. They rescued 10 workers.

The entire 30-member staff of the local fire brigade led by additional divisional fire officer Kashmir Singh began rescue operation soon after. “Firemen reached the spot within five minutes of getting information and saved many precious lives,” Kashmir Singh said.

The Punjab Government has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh to the next of the kin of each of the deceased, Rs 65,000 for the seriously hurt and Rs 45,000 for those who sustained minor injuries. Of the injured, 16 have been discharged, whereas 39 are still in hospitals.

The injured were rushed to the Devi Talab Mandir Hospital and Civil Hospital here. Factory owner Sheetal Vij is also president of the Devi Talab Mandir Management Committee that runs the hospital of the same name. Several teams of NGOs, including Pahal and sewadars of Dera Sacha Sauda, also joined rescue work. A 45-member NDRF team led by its Assistant Commandant Musaphir Ram reached the site from its Bathinda Headquarters. It started rescue operations at about 6.30 am.

“Rescue operations are on in full swing, but teams are finding it difficult to reach the buried survivors,” Musaphir Ram said, when asked about the slow pace of rescue operation.“We are using various type of equipment to tear through the debris and reach the trapped persons and have rescued several workers,” he said.

A column of army engineers of Vajra Corps led by Colonel Simrajeet Singh also reached the spot at 7.30 am. It also pressed sniffer dogs into service to reach out to survivors. After initial operations, another NRDF team was rushed in from Bathinda, which reached the site today afternoon.

Divisional Commissioner Anurag Verma and Deputy Commissioner Priyank Bharti were supervising rescue operations. The NDRF Assistant Commandant said it would take at least two days to clear the debris and know the exact loss of human life and property.

The Divisional Commissioner has been asked to look into the incident. Soon after visiting the site, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, SK Sandhu, said building experts would assist in the probe. He also said that all commercial and industrial buildings in the state would be put through a safety review to avoid recurrence of an untoward incident.


Disaster at Midnight

The police has arrested the owner of the factory, Shital Vij.
The police has arrested the owner of the factory, Shital Vij. 

l 11.30 pm, Sunday: Four-storey Sheetal Fibres collapses like a pack of cards; several workers in the blanket-manufacturing unit buried

l 11.40 pm: Residents of nearby areas reach site, begin rescue work

l 11.50 pm: Fire brigade personnel arrive, launch systematic operation

l 12 am: The DC, Police Commissioner take stock, requisition Army & NDRF

l 6.30 am: 45-member NDRF team arrives from Bathinda, starts work

l 7.30 am: Army engineers reach site, another NRDF team arrives at 12 noon


Anxious kin hamper rescue operations

An injured undergoing treatment at the Jalandhar Civil Hospital.
An injured undergoing treatment at the Jalandhar Civil Hospital. Photo: Sarabjit Singh

Soon after the incident, scores of relatives of the factory workers reached the spot. Rescue teams had a tough time controlling the restless people who were hindering their work.

People were seen standing close to the debris, calling out names of their family members. Sources said workers trapped under the debris had also telephoned their family members and colleagues to inform them about the incident.





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