Indian fireworks blaze death toll rises

2012-09-06 10:05
Muthumani, aged 25, injured with burn marks on his back rests on a bed at a government run hospital in Madurai, about 460km southwest of Chennai, India. (Aijaz Rahi, AP)

Muthumani, aged 25, injured with burn marks on his back rests on a bed at a government run hospital in Madurai, about 460km southwest of Chennai, India. (Aijaz Rahi, AP)

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Channai - The death toll from a huge blaze at a fireworks factory in southern India rose to 38 on Thursday as police revealed that the plant's licence had been suspended only a day before the tragedy.

Firefighters battled for hours to control the fire that broke out on Wednesday afternoon at Om Sivasakthi plant in Sivakasi, the centre of the Indian fireworks industry, 700km southwest of Chennai.

As well as confirming the recovery of the four bodies, senior police officer Najmul Hoda said at least 70 people were being treated in nearby hospitals.

Hoda said authorities had suspended the factory's licence on Tuesday after finding major safety violations but the management continued to operate the factory illegally on Wednesday.

"The licence of the factory was suspended just a day earlier. We have identified 13 accused. Six of them have been arrested including the foreman of the plant," he said.

"As the investigation progresses, all those persons against whom complicity is established would be arrested," said Hoda.

The fire started in a small room that was packed with workers and swiftly spread to dozens of other rooms. Many rooms were being used to store explosive chemicals and other raw materials needed to manufacture firecrackers.

The exact cause of the fire had yet to be determined, Hoda added.

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