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5 killed in explosions at Tarapur drug manufacturing unit

By Rachana Parmar
March 22, 2013 21:45 IST
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Explosions in seven reactors at a reputed bulk drug manufacturing company in Tarapur MIDC industrial estate on Friday afternoon killed five of its employees and injured 18 others.

At least three people were still trapped under the debris when reports last came in. The explosions occurred when production was in full swing at the company.   

The powerful blast razed the three-floor unit and was heard 10 km away.

The blast occurred at Aarti Drugs Limited, located on Plot Number N-198 in the Tarapur Chemical Zone MIDC area. The company is a well-known exporter and importer of bulk drugs.

The process of manufacturing methyl nitro imitazole bulk drug, which is used in the manufacture of skin ointments and other pharma products, was on in three shifts, i.e. 24 hours. Raw inflammable materials like oleum, oleum nitrate and methyl sulphate was being used to manufacture the final product when a chain of blasts was reported in the seven reactors of the plant.

“The blast brought the whole building down trapping employees under the debris,” said Siddharth Labane, deputy director, directorate of industrial safety and health, Vasai, who along with other officials reached the spot to take stock of the situation.

The exact number of employees stuck inside the unit is still unclear as rescue operations were in full swing with the help of the MIDC fire brigade and Boisar MIDC police, said Labane.

Five persons have been confirmed dead, which include Pooja Wade, 23 -- a chemical engineer who was appointed just three days ago --  Pranit Patil, 23, instrument engineer, Sachin Poojary, 25, works manager -- who was appointed just five months ago -- electrical engineer Surendra Sardar, 28, and Pramod Mishra, 30, production assistant, said a company official.

Eighteen employees have been admitted to the SanjeevaniHospital in Boisar while two employees, Pankaj Patil and Roopram Batharam have been shifted to KEMHospital.

“Batharam has suffered serious skull injuries,” said Police Inspector Uttam Sonawane of the Boisar MIDC police station. Also injured is Sanjay Pawar a firefighter from the Tarapur MIDC fire brigade and a Boisar police constable identified only as Desale.

Surendra Sardar, who was trapped under the debris, had tried calling his colleagues and friends on his mobile for help. However, about three hours later calls to his phone went unanswered. Firemen later retrieved his body. Another employee Pranit Patil was rescued after a three-hour operation, but succumbed to his injuries while being taken to hospital, said a company official.

Rescue efforts are still underway with employees still trapped under the debris. “We have registered a case of accidental death and are awaiting post mortem reports. After the directorate of industrial safety and health submits a report about the cause of the blasts, we will register further cases against the directors of the company,” said PI Sonawane.

Photograph: Aarti Drugs Limited in Boisar MIDC, the scene of the blast

Credit: Hanif Patel

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Rachana Parmar