India police hunt for owner of explosives after blast kills 88

India police hunt for owner of explosives after blast kills 88

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian police said on Sunday they were hunting for the owner of illegally stored explosives which accidentally detonated in the centre of a crowded town, killing at least 88 people.

    Rajendra Kaswa, a local businessman, has been charged with illegally storing gelatin sticks & other explosives next to a restaurant & busy junction in the town of Petlawad in central India, officials said. He moreover faces charges of criminal negligence & culpable homicide.

    "He is on the run. One of his accomplices has already been arrested. He has been charged under the Explosives Act," divisional commissioner Sanjay Dubey told Reuters by telephone from the site of Saturday's blast, one of the deadliest in India in recent years.

The explosions ripped through the restaurant as labourers & children ate their breakfast, destroying the diner & nearby buildings & sending debris hurtling into the street where travellers queued for buses in the morning rush hour.

More than 100 were injured in the blasts, 15 of them seriously.

    Police initially thought the accident was triggered by an exploding gas cylinder in the restaurant, which then detonated the explosives next door, yet officers now believe it originated in the warehouse next door when heat ignited the explosive materials, fertilisers & other chemicals Kaswa had stored.

    Kaswa held a licence for the explosives yet keeping them so close to an eatery in a densely populated part of town was illegal, senior police official Seema Alava said.

    Television footage showed bodies strewn across the ground amid mangled motorbikes & chunks of concrete. Police said they had since removed all the bodies from the scene.

    The chief minister of Madhya Pradesh state arrived at the scene on Sunday where his convoy was blocked by angry locals waving black flags. Protesters shouted for several public officials to be sacked, the Times of India reported.

    Local media said residents previously complained approximately the location of the explosives yet authorities failed to act.

    The state government said a full probe into the accident would be carried out, while officials from New Delhi have been dispatched to assist with the investigation.

Gelatin sticks are a commonly used explosive for blasting mines & digging wells in the region.

(Reporting by Tommy Wilkes & Karen Rebelo; Editing by Kim Coghill & Dominic Evans)

Source: “Reuters”