At least 18 workers feared dead in fire at chemical firm near Pune

The fire broke out at SVS Aqua Technologies, company in Urawade village near the Pirangut MIDC area in Mulshi

At least 18 persons, of whom 15 are believed to be women, are feared charred to death in a blaze following explosions in a private chemical manufacturing plant in Pune’s Mulshi taluk.

There were conflicting reports of the exact number of workers trapped at the time of the blaze, with some officials giving the figure as 38 and others stating that the roll call showed 37.

The fire department authorities, who reached the scene at 4 p.m. thereabouts, said they had been able to recover 11 of the bodies and that at least two persons were feared missing.

The death toll could rise further, said officials.

According to Pune rural authorities, a massive fire was reported sometime during 2:30 p.m. at the SVS Aqua Technologies, a company in Urawade village near the Pirangut MIDC area in Mulshi. It is believed that two powerful explosions, whose cause has yet to be ascertained, led to the ensuing inferno.

“We have information that over 35 workers were inside the factory of which 20 were rescued. So far, 11 dead bodies have been recovered. Most of them are charred beyond recognition. The process of identification is on,” said a fire department official.

The bodies were taken to the Sassoon General Hospital late in the evening for post-mortem and identification through DNA testing.

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who is also Pune’s Guardian Minister, announced an ex gratia payment of ₹5 lakh each for the kin of the deceased on behalf of the Maharashtra government.

Likewise, the Centre announced a compensation of ₹2 lakh each for the kin of the deceased and ₹50,000 for the injured.

“Pained by the loss of lives due to a fire at a factory in Pune, Maharashtra. Condolences to the bereaved families,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“It is unfortunate and tragic that the workers of a chemical company died in a fire near Urwade village. It is even more tragic that the fire brigade was unable to rescue some of the victims despite their best efforts. We sympathize with the families of those killed in the accident and the state government will provide ₹5 lakh each to the families of the victims. The police have already registered a case in this regard,” announced Mr. Pawar, while stating that a through probe had been ordered into the incident.

A committee headed by the Pune District Collector has been formed to determine the exact cause of the fire.

On receiving information about the fire, teams of Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA) and the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) fire brigade rushed to the spot with at least five fire tenders, water tankers and fire-fighting equipment.

The blaze was finally under control after intense firefighting operations that lasted for more than five hours.

Fear and pandemonium reigned supreme late afternoon outside the burning chemical plant, as shocked and irate relatives of the deceased and the missing labourers congregated on the scene of the accident, compelling the Pune police to restrain the tearful onlookers.

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