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Deadly fireworks factory blast in India

Text by REUTERS

Latest update : 2008-10-23

At least 25 people were killed, including 12 children, in western India on Thursday, as a result of an explosion at a clandestine fireworks factory, police said. Diwali, the festival of lights, will be celebrated on Tuesday.

NEW DELHI - An accidental explosion ripped through an illegal fireworks factory in western India, killing at least 25 people, including 12 children, just days before one of India’s biggest festivals.

 

Police said that another 17 people were hurt after the explosion on Wednesday in the town of Deeg in the western state of Rajasthan, a senior police officer said.

 

“We have lost hopes of finding any survivors as we are only digging up bodies or body parts,” R. Narsimha Rao, a police inspector general in Rajasthan, told Reuters.

 

The blast came only days before the Indian holiday of Diwali, or festival of lights, when millions of Indians take to the streets to let off fireworks.

 

Months before Diwali, illegal fireworks factories spring up in many parts of India and almost all of these employ children, a child rights’ group said.

 

Poor children clandestinely work at these makeshift factories, which are often in people’s homes, and almost every year there are fatal accidents.

 

Employing children in hazardous occupations such as fireworks and electric bulb manufacturing units were banned by the government in 1987.

 

Wednesday’s blast highlights how India has fared poorly in implementing the law.

 

Police said there were many factories in the area, and the government had asked owners to move them out of busy residential areas, only to face protests.

 

Rescue officials were trying to remove debris from the area and police said most of the dead were being buried.

 

“The impact of the blast was huge and it brought down at least five houses in the area,” Rao said. He said the owners of the illegal factory were all killed in the explosion.

 

CHILD LABOUR

 

“A few witnesses have told us that the factory had stored a huge consignment of crackers,” an investigating officer said by telephone. “They were desperately trying to meet deadlines.”

 

Local residents joined in the rescue efforts and police said volunteers worked through the night, but were yet to clear blocks of concrete slabs and rubble that had piled up.

 

Swapan Mukherjee of Free the Children India said the factories often hired children because “children come cheap”.

 

“We have come across cases where they are just given a meal a day for 18-20 hours of work, others are paid one-fifth of a dollar.”

 

There are at least 1,500 such illegal factories around each of India’s major cities, Mukherjee said.

 

In 2005, more than 30 people, mostly children, died in an accident in the eastern state of Bihar and last year four children died in neighbouring West Bengal.

Date created : 2008-10-23

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