At least five workers were killed and 140 others injured when a massive blast ripped through an industrial unit in Dombivli township of the district near Thane on Thursday, the police said.
The mishap occurred at about 11.30 am when cylinders exploded triggering a blaze in the chemical manufacturing unit of Probace Enterprises at Shivaji Udyog Nagar of MIDC phase-II area in Dombivli (east).
Such was the intensity of the blast that the shock wave generated by it shattered window panes of adjoining buildings and shocked people were seen running helter-skelter, an eye-witness said.
"The death toll stood at five and the number of injured is 140," said District Disaster Control Officer Dinesh Kurhade. Meanwhile, clarifying the name of the company, the
district publicity department tonight stated in a release that the correct name of the firm is "Probace Enterprises" and not "Herbert Brown Pharmaceutical and Research Laboratories (a unit of the Acharya Chemicals) as it had stated earlier.
Probace Enterprises mainly deals in hazardous chemicals. Due to the explosion, roof of some of the houses in the vicinity flew away while some huts were damaged. The explosion has created a big crater at the site.
Among the injured are those who were hit by flying glass shards. District Collector Mahendra Kalyankar said a huge operation was underway for clearing the debris whereas the injured people were admitted in local hospitals.
He said National Disaster Relief Force personnel were also involved in the rescue operation, along with fire brigade and the police. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited the blast site and also the hospital where some of the injured are admitted.
Over a dozen firefighters from Thane, Kalyan, Ambernath, Ulhasnagar, Badlapur and Navi Mumbai were rushed to the spot to extinguish the flames.
Police said the rescue team was facing a tough task in clearing the debris as chemical barrels and drums were lying buried under it.
The district collector is likely to hold a meeting with the Directorate of Industrial Safety, police, MIDC, and Kalyan Dombivili Municipal Corporation officials to find out if safety norms were followed by the chemical unit.
Thane District Regional Disaster Management Cell in-charge Santosh Kadam said the rescue operations were affected because of the fire and it was not immediately known how many persons were trapped inside.
At least 15 ambulances were rushed to the site, he added.
"The state government will bear all the expenses for their medical treatment," he said, adding that an in-depth enquiry will be conducted into the incident. Fadnavis said, "this is a serious and major incident whose impact was felt in a long distance. The government would conduct a detailed inquiry".
Industries Minister Subash Desai said the chemical units in the belt would be kept shut for eight days from Friday. Thane Joint Police Commissioner Ashutosh Dumbre said rescue operations were still on.
The impact of the explosion was felt in an area of around five kilometres in which many vehicles were damaged. Over a dozen firefighters from Thane, Kalyan, Ambernath, Ulhasnagar, Badlapur and Navi Mumbai were rushed to the spot to extinguish the flames.