Satinder Pal Singh
Dera Bassi, July 10
One person was killed and at least 12 injured in an explosion in a solvent tank of a chemical plant at Punjab Chemicals and Crop Protection Limited (PCCPL) on the Mubarikpur road here this morning.
The blast triggered a fire and a thick blanket of toxic smoke engulfed the area. Panic spread in the area as soon as residents heard the loud explosion.
The cause of the fire is unclear, but company officials said a short-circuit might have caused it.
The deceased has been identified as Sukhwinder Singh, aka Bunty, a resident of Bijanpur village near Dera Bassi. The injured workers were admitted to government and private hospitals in Dera Bassi. A few of them were later shifted to the GMCH, Sector 32, Chandigarh, the PGI and a private hospital in Panchkula.
The impact of the blast was so intense that the roof of the chemical plant was blown off and the pillars crumpled. Machinery and equipment were damaged and raw chemicals stored in the plant also caught fire.
Over 20 workers were present at the plant when the incident took place. Workers and other employees, who were on the top floor, ran out in panic as the fire spread to the entire unit.
Employees said the explosion was deafening and the victims, who suffered burns injuries, were thrown several metres away due to the impact of the blast. One of the injured employees, Gurmeet, a resident of Pandwala, said he was working on the ground floor of the unit when he heard a powerful explosion. He said his co-workers escaped with minor injuries.
According to eyewitnesses, the fire broke out around 11.15 am at the ACF chemical plant of the PCCPL. Till 11.30 am, flames had engulfed the entire chemical plant and the entire area was enveloped in dark smoke, creating panic among nearby residents.
The magnitude of the fire could be gauged from the fact that local firemen had to seek the help of their counterparts in Chandigarh, Mohali and Dappar to control the blaze. As many as 10 fire engines were rushed to the spot to bring the fire under control.
The director of the company, Avtar Singh, said a short-circuit led to the fire, which reached the solvents stored in tanks placed in the unit and it exploded, causing the fire to spread more rapidly. Within a few minutes, it engulfed a huge part of the plant,” the director added.
Avtar said the plant was destroyed and machinery and raw and ready chemicals worth crores were burnt.
Manjit Singh, Fire Officer, Dera Bassi, said they received information around 11.40 am and subsequently fire engines were rushed to the spot.
The Dera Bassi fire brigade rushed four fire engines along with a team of firemen to extinguish the flames. After a struggle of nearly two and a half hours, the firemen were able to control the blaze.
Even after the fire was extinguished, waste material kept smouldering and four fire engines were stationed at the spot to sprinkle water at regular intervals to check the recurrence of the blaze, said the Fire Officer. The injured were all praise for employees of other units of the factory, who were the first to arrive and take them to hospitals, including the PGI. As many as 15 injured employees were taken to Swami Nursing Home, Dera Bassi, and most of them were discharged after being given medical aid.
Earlier fire incidents at factory
- Two persons sustained burn injuries and machinery and chemicals worth crores were damaged in a major fire that broke out at a factory of Punjab Chemical and Crop Protection Limited (PCCPL) in April18, 2009.
- A fire broke out on the premises of the PCCPL on November 9, 2018. However, no loss of life and property was reported from the incident.
Employees took injured to hospital
An official of the PCCPL said after the explosion, as the ambulance was making rounds in taking the victims to the hospital, in order to save time, employees shifted others victims in their vehicles to the hospital.
Tank cover found 200 yards away
The blast was so powerful that it was heard even at a distance of 2 km, and the upper layer of the tank was found on the Dera Bassi-Mubarikpur stretch, 200 yards away from the chemical plant.
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