Kanpur, March 22: A powerful blast today ripped off the roof of a two-storey building in the congested Chote Mian Ka Hata locality, killing three persons and an eight-year boy.
Seventeen people were wounded in the blast, which could have been set off by explosives illegally stockpiled in the building. The walls of three dingy rooms adjacent to the building caved in, but 32 people asleep in them escaped unhurt.
Experts have been summoned from Agra to investigate the nature of the explosives. Preliminary police inquiries suggested crude bombs illegally stored in the building sparked the explosion.
“That the toll was confined to four appeared a miracle since the blast ripped the roof of the house and brought down the walls of three adjacent dingy rooms in which 32 persons were sleeping,” zonal inspector-general of police R.K. Tewari said.
A criminal case has been registered against the owner of the house for illegal storage of explosives, he said. “We cannot rule out the possibility of searches in other houses to flush out illegally stockpiled arms and ammunition in the locality, but these will be based on definite information,” Tewari added.
Two of the victims, Shoaib and Saleem, were brothers while a third, Ahad, was an eight-year-old boy. Of the 17 injured, admitted in various local hospitals, eight are in serious condition.
“I was fast asleep when suddenly debris fell on me after I heard a loud explosion,” said nine-year-old Ajjo, lucky to have survived.
While the police blamed the residents for illegally storing explosives on the premises, they rapped the police for inaction. A similar blast had occurred in the area last month, hardly 100 meters from the building brought down today, they claimed.
“During the last 15 months, more than seven blasts have occurred in different houses in Colonelganj, Beaconganj, Chamanganj and Bajaria localities but the police dismissed them as accidents caused by stockpiles of gunpowder kept for making crackers,” a local, Haneef Ahmed, alleged.
Kanpur’s senior superintendent of police M.K. Bansalo said today’s blast could have been caused by “crude bombs kept by some local criminals for use against their rivals”. He conceded that despite reports about illegal stockpiling of explosives there had been no concerted door to door search in these areas.
A police officer recalled that when senior district official C.P. Pathak was killed by rioters two years ago, then SSP Arun Kumar had launched a drive to unearth illegal arms dumps in Colonelganj. “A huge quantity of arms and ammunition was unearthed during that operation but a similar exercise was not undertaken after that,” he said.
“The topography of these places makes it difficult for the police to go for intensive searches. Most of the lanes and by-lanes are narrow and thickly populated, which explains why none among the revenue collecting staff, including Power Corporation employees, dare to enter these localities,” he said.
Police presence was beefed up in Colonelganj and other sensitive pockets after the blast.