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Short circuit behind Bihar blasts?

Most of the children who died were playing outside the factories, says DIG



IN RUINS: A damaged fireworks factory building where at least 35 persons died in a major explosion, in Khusrupur near Patna, on Thursday. — Photo: Ranjeet Kumar

KHUSURUPUR (PATNA): An electrical short circuit is suspected to be the cause behind the fire leading to explosions in two cracker factories here, resulting in the death of 32 people, including five women and 10 children, DIG (Patna Range) R. Singh said.

Mr. Singh told PTI that a large portion of the double-storied building housing the factories in Miyan Toli locality crumbled in the explosions that were heard in a radius of three km.

District Magistrate B. Rajendra confirmed 32 deaths and put the number of injured at 24.

Mr.Singh said the matter was being probed after complaints were received that the factory owners were manufacturing bombs. ``We are investigating whether powerful bombs were being manufactured at the two units and whether their owners had in their possession explosives in excess of the quota allotted to them,'' he said.

Most of the children who died were playing outside the factories, the DIG said. Two houses were also destroyed in the fire. A team of explosive experts and a dog squad was looking for more explosives and bodies under the debris, which were being cleared by the Fire Brigade and Police personnel with the help of locals, he said.

Medical Officer of Fatuha Hospital R. N. P. Sinha said 25 people were referred to the Nalanda Medical College Hospital in Patna. Other hospitals in Bakhtiarpur, Fatuha and Patna also were treating 25 people. Md Hakim, owner of one of the factories, whose entire family of seven perished, has been arrested, Mr. Rajendra said.

MLA of dissolved Bihar Assembly Aniruddh Kumar Yadav claimed at least 50 people were killed and 100 injured in the accident.

Aftab, a resident of Miyan Toli, said ``we first heard a loud blast and then a series of explosions shook the whole place. The locality presented a chaotic scene with everybody running for cover.''

Senior Superintendent of Police Kundan Krishnan said narrow lanes and people crowded the spot hindered the fire-fighting operations.

The fire-fighters battled for over two hours to extinguish the blaze, he said.

While many people died of burns, others perished after inhaling toxic fumes or were crushed to death.

Mr. Krishnan told reporters that there were four blasts in quick succession while the debris was cleared, causing panic and a stampede like situation, but no one was injured.

The dangling portions of the buildings would soon be demolished and heavy machinery was being moved to the spot for the purpose, he said.

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