Mohali, June 12: The charred bodies of two employees were today retrieved from the rubble of a burned-out section of a Ranbaxy pharmaceuticals factory, reports our correspondent.
The unofficial toll in last night’s fire is four. There were more than 125 people in the factory at the time of the fire.
The bodies of supervisor Maninder Bawa and technician Ranjit Singh were recovered today. At least 23 workers, including four who are in a critical condition, are undergoing treatment, mainly for burn injuries.
The fire, which was preceded by a deafening blast, raged for over three hours. It spread panic in the town, with people trying to flee those areas where the wind was spreading the smoke. Police had to use loudspeakers to assure residents that no poisonous gases had escaped.
Over 40 fire-tenders had to be deployed from towns as far as Ludhiana to douse the flames, which could only be controlled at 12.30 am after the Air Force stepped in to supply foam.
Flames from the factory were visible from high-rise apartments in Panchkula, over 10 km away. The intensity of the blast was such that window panes of houses nearly a km away shattered and walls of nearby buildings developed cracks.
Ropar deputy commissioner Seema Jain said she would wait till police and forensic experts filed their report before speaking on the cause of the blast.
Recalling the blast, Baldev Singh, a resident of Phase Five, said: “A glass of milk kept beside my table fell and the windows rattled. At first I thought that an Air Force aircraft had broken the sound barrier but then I heard noises on the street. For a while it seemed it was a gas explosion because of the smell.”
A worker said the factory used methanol, liquid oxygen and other gases in producing medicines. A fire officer said the gases had been classified as class 3 hazardous gases.
Those visiting the affected portion of the factory today were made to don masks. Factory managers constituted a technical committee to probe the blast. “We will ascertain what caused the blast. It could be the gas that is used to treat the raw material,” a factory official said.
The management has decided to pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for those killed and provide jobs to their next of kin.
Chief minister Amarinder Singh visited the factory and directed the administration to help in relief and rescue operations.
A state crisis group for management of chemical accidents under the chairmanship of chief secretary Rajan Kashyap will meet tomorrow after Amarinder ordered a review of how prepared government agencies and industry are for future crises.