11 killed in Ariyalur firecracker unit blasts

Eleven people, including three women, died and 13 others were injured in a major explosion at a firecracker unit at Viragalur village near Keelapalur in Ariyalur district on Monday.

Explosions inside the unit continued for nearly three hours, police said.

More than 30 people from Sivakasi, Tiruvaiyaru and surrounding villages were working at the unit, Deepam fireworks, when the blast started. The injured were admitted to two hospitals. Three of them are critical. The reason for the blast is being probed, police said.

The licensed unit owned by K Rajendran (65) of South Street in Viragalur village has been in operation since 2014. Rajendran was also operating a firecracker retail shop on Thanjavur-Ariyalur road, located a km away from the fireworks unit.

The unit manufactures explosives, stores them in godowns and supplies them to wholesale and retail traders across the state. Rajendran and his son-in-law A Arunkumar (40), who runs the unit, have been arrested.

According to sources, workers were restarting their work after breakfast recess when the explosions rocked the place around 9.30 a.m. Even as the employees were trying to flee, the fire spread to sheds where raw materials and manufactured explosives were stored and to godowns on the campus.