Three dead as 40 blasts rip through chemical factory near Mumbai, tremors felt 12km away

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At least three people were killed and 15 injured when a series of blasts and a fire ripped through a chemical plant of a pharmaceutical company in Maharashtra’s Boisar near Mumbai late on Thursday.

According to preliminary reports, the blasts occurred in 25 drums containing 200 litres each of solvent at Novephene Specialities’ plant in Boisar MIDC at around 11:15 pm.

Three unidentified bodies were found in nearby factory of Arti Drugs when firemen entered the premises for cooling operations, Palghar SP Manjunath Singe said.

The 15 injured, three of whom are critical, have been admitted in three hospitals in Boisar, Singe said, adding that the number of casualties could go up.

Palghar district collector Prashant Narnaware, who reached the site early on Friday, said 40 blasts heard from the plant. Police, fire, revenue and health personnel were at the spot carrying out rescue operations.

“It is clear that the said unit did not follow any safety precautions and due to an exothermic reaction, the blast occurred in the solvent drums. We are probing and the guilty will be charged under relevant sections of the IPC and we may recommend the government to cancel the manufacturing licence of the guilty units,”Narnaware said.

Four surrounding chemical units — belonging to Prachi Industries (manufacturing iodine), Bharat Rasayan, Arti Industries (manufacturing vitamins), Unimax and others — were either partially or completely destroyed.

Tremors of the blasts could be felt 12km from the spot in Palghar, Mahim, Boisar and surrounding areas. Doors and glass panes of nearby houses were shattered.

Eyewitnesses said the explosion, “sounding like a huge bomb”, happened when many were preparing to retire for the night.

However, scared and shaken by the explosion, many feared it was an earthquake and hundreds rushed out on to the streets and sat there.

At least 25 fire tenders from Vasai, Bhiwandi, Palghar, Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS), Reliance Thermal, Dahanu, Thane and Palghar have been pressed into service.

As a precautionary measure, roads have been cordoned off, and power to 57 industrial units (20 high tension (HT) units and 37 low tension (LT) units) near the spot have been cut off as the two 11 KV each feeders have been shut, said an MSEDCL official.

SP Singe said the directorate of industrial safety and health (DISH), Vasai, will ascertain the cause of the fire and submit a report to the Boisar MIDC police, who have registered a case of accident.

Collector Narnaware said he had conducted meetings with concerned departments like MIDC and MPCB and instructed them to ensure safety.

Tarapur MIDC has around 1,100 chemical units which store hazardous and flammable chemicals. “DISH has failed to take corrective measures and hence, we will be forwarding a report to the state government to conduct an inquiry into these lapses,” he said.

Novaphene Specialities’ head office is located in Dahisar and is owned by the Shah Group which has been manufacturing acid chlorides, reagents, personal cosmetic care, pharmaceutical intermediates and other products for the past five decades.

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