Thane: At least five workers were killed and around 150 others injured in a massive blast in a boiler at a private chemical company in the MIDC industrial complex here on Thursday morning, police said.
The blast in Probace Enterprises around 11.35 am caused a devastating fire at the factory, located in the Phase II of Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) complex, on the outskirts of the thickly-populated Dombivali city, said an official of the Manpada police.
The fire was quickly brought under control and as smoke dissipated, it revealed the entire factory building had collapsed and flatted by the impact.
The huge blast and blaze also caused massive damage to two other adjacent plants - belonging to the Herbert Brown Pharma and Research and Acharya Group.
So severe was the blast, which some eyewitnesses compared to a bomb explosion, that it was heard even four-five km away.
The shock wave shook buildings, shattered glass windows of several residential and industrial buildings, moving or parked vehicles and buses, injured pedestrians, vehicle drivers and even cattle in the surrounding vicinity for almost two kms.
Many people, including students, wearing spectacles or sporting sunglasses, sustained serious eye injuries as the glass suddenly shattered on their faces.
In some buildings and flats, locked doors flew off from their hinges, TV sets and other glass furniture at homes were shattered, while in shops, restaurants, banks, ATMs and jewellery showrooms, glass showcases and glass walls other furniture blew off in seconds, injuring many more.
The blast also disrupted mobile communication and television cable services in the area for a few hours.
Many locals mistook it for an earthquake and dropped everything to flee their homes or shops to open places for safety.
Fifteen fire-tenders and water tankers from Dombivali, Thane, Kalyan and other surrounding towns, as well as National Disaster Response Force teams from Thane and Pune, and the National Security Guard team from Mumbai, rushed to the spot to tackle the emergency, said District Collector Mahendra Kalyankar.
Kalyankar said arrangements were made for augmenting blood supplies for the injured victims who were admitted to nearby government or private hospitals and other relief measures.
Taking a serious view of the incident, Industry Minister Subhash Desai announced that all chemical industrial units in and around Dombivali would be shifted to alternate locations for which suitable legislative change would be effected.
He also announced that all such chemical industries in the city shall be shut down for a week to carry out an inspection and combing operation to ascertain implementation of various safety and security measures.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed deep anguish over the mega-tragedy and assured all relief and rehabilitation measures for the victims, and booking the culprits responsible after a thorough probe into the incident.
He also visited the injured undergoing treatment at various hospitals in the evening and announced the state government would foot all medical bills.
The district authorities have ordered a separate probe into the blast's cause and will carry out a safety review of all the 900-odd industrial units located in the sprawling MIDC area in Dombivali.
At least three other ministers including Eknath Shinde, Prakash Mehta visited the city later in the day and met the victims of the tragedy admitted to different hospitals.
The company deals in a range of industrial chemicals including propargyl chloride, propargyl bromide, 2-bromoethyl methyl ether, methyl propargyl ether, propargyl phenyl ether, dimethyl propargyl amine, propargyl amine and propargyl amine hydrochloride.