Sivakasi factory explosion
|Date||5 September 2012|
|Location||Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, India|
The 2012 Sivakasi factory explosion was an explosion at the Om Sakthi Fireworks Industries fireworks factory in Sivakasi, India on 5 September 2012. 40 people were killed and more than 70 injured. The tragedy occurred in a fireworks factory which did not have a valid licence.
Sivakasi, in Tamil Nadu in southern India, is considered the "fireworks capital" of India. The town produces more than 90% of India's fireworks and India is the second largest producer of fireworks in the world, next to China. More than 700 factories in Sivakasi make approximately $360 million worth of fireworks every year.
The Om Sakthi Fireworks Industries complex consisted of a single larger factory unit and 48 ancillary units. The company's fireworks license had been suspended only days earlier for violation of worker safety rules. Local police officials stated that the factory should have been closed at the time, owing to the suspension. Instead, more than 300 people were working in the facility when the explosion occurred. With the Hindu festival of Diwali only weeks away, fireworks producers were reportedly under pressure to maintain high production levels.
The explosion occurred while workers were mixing certain chemicals to produce fireworks. Some reports suggest the high ambient temperature in the factory, reported to be 39 °C (102 °F), may have been a factor. The initial explosion and a subsequent series of explosions could be heard more than two kilometres away. Fire fighter entry to the buildings was delayed by a lack of equipment, including breathing apparatus. Efforts to treat victims were also delayed due to inadequate facilities at several local hospitals. It took more than five hours for fire fighters to extinguish the fire.
The initial death toll was 37, followed by reports several weeks later of a final confirmed total of 40 deaths and more than 70 injuries. Fatalities included factory workers and local villagers who walked in after the initial fire.
Immediately after the incident, authorities began enforcing existing regulations, conducting raids and inspections, forcing some factories to close and cancelling several licences and as a consequence, 150 fireworks production units had been closed. 12 people were arrested, including the factory manager, and were charged with culpable homicide. The owner of Om Sakthi Fireworks Industries absconded soon after the incident and could not be found by police. Responding to reports of the arrests, local authorities called for a higher-level inquiry into the incident.
The following day (7 September), Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram announced a "magisterial probe" to determine how the factory was allowed to continue even after its licence had been suspended.
- Sivakasi: India's dangerous fireworks capital (BBC News, 22 September 2012)
- Safety Problems Persist in India’s Firecracker Industry by Anupama Chandrasekaran (New York Times, 8 September 2012)
- Blaze at India fireworks factory "kills 34" (BBC News, 5 September 2012)
- Sivakasi factory fire: 54 charred to death in the incident (The Times of India, 5 September 2012)
- Season arrives but the festive spirit is missing in Sivakasi by J Arockiaraj (The Times of India, 5 November 2012)
- Sivakasi fire: 12 arrested, hunt on for owner (Hindustan Times, 6 September 2012)
- Sivakasi fire unit mishap: 36 killed; PM, Sonia express grief (Hindustan Times, 6 September 2012)
- Sivakasi: Major fire at fire-cracker factory, 37 dead by J Sam Daniel Stalin (NDTV, 6 September 2012)
- Death toll 39; Jayalalithaa orders probe into blaze (Hindustan Times, 7 September 2012)