On Monday, the blast at an illegal firecracker manufacturing unit at Gullipalle village in Sabbavaram mandal on, that claimed three lives and left four people injured has brought to the fore the perennial danger of running these unauthorised factories in the rural areas in Visakhapatnam district.
Investigation into the Gullipalle case has revealed that the licence of the unit expired in 2013. “The unit owner was bound over and a written agreement taken from him that he would not indulge in such activities again. Yet, he continued to run the unit,” Visakhapatnam Rural SP Attada Babujee noted.
Though the Rural Police are yet to ascertain the reason for the blast, sources said that the unit had been receiving a good tranche of orders owing to the wedding season and the coming election.
“It is learnt that several political parties have ordered firecrackers in bulk, keeping in view the ongoing electioneering and poll results scheduled to be out in May,” a senior police officer said.
According to Rural Police, Devarapalli, Anakapalle (Rural), Chodavaram, Butchayyapaeta, Kasimkota, Sabbavaram, Gokulapadu and Narsipatnam are said to be the hotspots for such illegal units. Records also encourage that these places have seen several such accidents in the past.
Major accidents in past
Three persons were burnt alive while two others suffered grievous injuries in a blast at the same cracker unit at Gullipalle in May 2012.
In a major blast at a cracker factory at Gokulapadu in 2016, eight workers including four women and two minor girls were killed and several others were injured. In 2015, five workers died and many injured at an illegal cracker unit at A. Kothapalli village in Devarapalli mandal.
According to sources that many illegal units were surfacing overnight owing to the demand for crackers as marriage and election seasons coincided this year and to hoodwink the police, the units were being run from small sheds and thatched houses in isolated places such as agricultural fields.
“Such units hire untrained locals, offering low wage. The poor experience of such workers in handling hazardous and inflammable chemicals has led to mishaps many a time in the past. Moreover, such units do not even maintain basic fire safety equipment. The unit at Gullipalle village where accident occurred on Monday, had no fire safety equipment in place,” a senior police officer said.
Sources further said that the cracker manufacturers used explosives such as sulphur, phosphorus and a few others, which could result in massive explosions, if stored in huge quantity without precaution.
“After the Gullipalle incident, we have alerted not just the police teams but also the Fire Safety Department to identify the illegal units and flush those out. We have also informed the fire safety officials about the existence of illegal cracker units,” Mr. Babujee noted.