5 dead, 1 injured in Chikkaballapur mine blast in K’taka (2nd Ld)

At least five persons were killed and one received severe injuries in a suspected gelatine explosion at a quarry site in Hirenagavalli hamlet bordering Chikkaballapur and Bengaluru in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, police said.

Hirenagavalli is a small hamlet in Chikballapur taluk in Chikballapur district of Karnataka. It is located 86 kms from tech hub Bengaluru.

According to the police the deceased were identified as engineer Umakant, security guard Mahesh, billing clerk Murali, computer operator Gangadhar and one Abhi, all working in Sri Bhramaravasini stone crusher plant in Chikkaballapur.

Inspector General of Police (Central Range) M. Chandrashekhar told reporters that the Chikkaballapur police had conducted a search operations of this unit twice, first on February 7 and second search led by SP K. Mithun just 10 or 12 hours prior to this incident.

‘Our prima facie investigations reveal the mine owners seem to have hired inexperienced people in handling explosive material to dispose off ‘excess’ materials in their possession. In a hurry they have tried to dispose it off and led to the accident,’ he said.

He added that the police had already picked up a person after search operations on February 7, who sells explosive materials in this region. ‘We were still on the investigation and now this incident has taken place,’ he said.

While Karnataka Health Minister K. Sudhakar said that the quarry was storing gelatin sticks illegally. ‘There is no question of protecting anyone, as these are illegally held explosives. This will be dealt with by law, strict action will be taken,’ he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa offered condolences to the families of the victims and assured strict action.

‘The death of six people near the village of Hirenagavalli in Chikkaballapur, which killed six people, is a shock. Information has been obtained from the District Ministers and senior officials, who have been instructed to conduct a thorough investigation and take stern action against the guilty,’ Yediyurappa said on Twitter.

He added, ‘A high-level investigation into the disaster is underway and strict action will be taken against the guilty.’

‘Pained by the loss of lives due to a mishap at Chikkaballapur in Karnataka. Condolences to the bereaved families. Praying that the injured recover quickly,’ the Prime Minister tweeted.

This tragedy comes just a month after a similar mishap was reported from Shivamogga district where six labourers died in a quarry due to an accidental explosion of a similar nature.

In the Shivamogga disaster, a lorry carrying explosives exploded killing all five persons in the vehicle. Following the incident, Yediyurappa had ordered a drive to check illegal quarrying and mining in the state. He had also ordered that usage of illegal explosive be stopped immediately.