At least 21 killed in Punjab factory blast; Amarinder expresses grief

Batala (Pb), Sep 4 (PTI): Twenty-one people were killed while 27 injured in a blast at a firecracker factory in Batala of Gurdaspur district on Wednesday, an official said.
Several people were feared trapped under the debris, police said, adding that the rescue operation was underway.
The blast took place around 4 pm at the factory located in a residential area, Inspector General (Border Range) SPS Parmar told PTI.
Batala Senior Medical Officer Sanjiv Bhalla said, “A total of 21 people have died in the blast.”
Earlier, Gurdaspur Deputy Commissioner Vipul Ujjwal said 19 people had died in the blast and 27 sustained injuries.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident.
The Additional Deputy Commissioner (Batala) had been asked to conduct the inquiry into the tragic incident, an official release said.
Amarinder Singh also directed Rural Development and Panchayat Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa to immediately rush to the spot and oversee the relief and rescue operations.
An ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the kin of the each deceased and Rs 50,000 for the each of the seven severely injured, who were referred to the Amritsar medical college, was announced.
The government also announced Rs 25,000 for those with minor injuries.
Punjab CM directed both the civil and police administration to extend all possible help to the victims’ families in this hour of grief.
He also directed the Deputy Commissioner to provide the best possible treatment to the injured free of cost besides asking the SSP to supervise the evacuation operations being carried out by the NDRF team.
Punjab Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhwala, along with senior officials of the district administration and police, took stock of the situation.
Teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) have been deployed for the rescue operation. Fire tenders were also pressed into service.
The impact of the blast was such that a few nearby buildings were damaged. Some four-wheelers were also damaged because of the impact. The explosion was heard a few kilometres away, locals said.
DC Ujjwal said the immediate priority of the administration was to save those still trapped under the debris.
“We are trying to find out if anyone is missing,” Ujjwal said.
Some of the local residents claimed that several complaints were submitted to the district administration in the past for the closure of the factory.
Earlier in the day, the CM expressed shock over the loss of life in the blast.
“Deeply anguished to learn the loss of life due to the blast in the firecracker factory in Batala. Rescue operations are underway with the DC and the SSP heading relief efforts,” Amarinder tweeted.
Gurdaspur MP Sunny Deol too expressed grief over the incident.
“Saddened to hear about the news of blast in Batala factory. NDRF teams and local administration have been rushed for rescue operation,” Deol said in his tweet.