A series of loud explosions filled the air on Sunday afternoon near the Latheri bus stand in Tamil Naduâ€™s Vellore district. As passers-by scrambled to get themselves into safety, the cause for the explosions and the resultant fire slowly became apparent. A cracker shop near the bus stand suddenly caught fire around 12 noon on Sunday, killing three persons, including two children. A few two-wheeler vehicles parked outside the shop, too, were damaged.
Fifty-five-year-old Mohan, the owner of the cracker shop, and his grandchildren Dhanush (6) and Tejas (7), who were also inside the shop at the time of the accident, were found dead. Fire service personnel from Katpadi and Gudiyatham fire stations were pressed into action. The fire was brought under control after over an hour. The bodies of the three deceased were sent to the Government Hospital in Adukkamparai, Vellore, for the post-mortem.
Vellore District Collector Shanmuga Sundaram and Superintendent of Police S Selvakumar visited the spot, following which an inquiry has begun. Initial reports suggest that a potential buyer had asked Mohan to demonstrate one of the crackers before purchasing. When he did, a spark flew into the shop, setting it on fire. Mohan then rushed inside to save his grandchildren and unfortunately the three were caught inside the shop when the fire began raging. Investigations are currently ongoing to deduce the exact cause for the fire and the resultant explosion.
Speaking to TNM, the District Revenue Officer J Partheeban says the shop appears to have followed all safety precautions. â€śThe shop has been functioning since 1992 according to our data. It is located on a wide street and seems to have followed all safety protocols. It was accessible to fire tender. This appears to be a human error than an electrical or cracker-related incident,â€ť he said.
â€śWe have announced a meeting with all owners and do a refresher on precautionary measures, keeping in mind the onset of summer. We will also sensitise them on not allowing children inside cracker shops,â€ť he added.
This incident has prompted the Collector to issue safety instructions to Revenue, Police and Fire Service departments regarding firecracker shops. A report in The Hindu says that the Collector has asked for the shutting down the cracker shops on Sundays and strict adherence to safety norms. A Collectorâ€™s order has asked for a joint inspection by the police, revenue, fire and TANGEDCO (Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation) departments of all cracker shops in Vellore the district.
The DRO also said an inquiry will be initiated by the sub-divisional Magistrate and a report will be submitted to the government with recommendation for Chief Ministerâ€™s Fund.