Hopes recede of finding survivors in collapsed Punjab factory
Jalandhar, April 18 (IANS) Hopes of finding more survivors in the collapsed four-storeyed blanket manufacturing factory in Jalandhar began to recede Wednesday evening though a teenaged boy was pulled out of the debris earlier in the day after almost 55 hours of the collapse that has claimed 10 lives so far.
Rescue teams said they were not able to hear any more sounds for help from under the debris of the factory in Focal Point area in Jalandhar, about 150 km from here. Sixty-one people have been rescued so far.
Many more people could still be trapped, officials said as rescue efforts continued for the third day.
According to authorities, the death toll could rise with many more still under the debris of the Shital Fibres factory, which manufactures mink blankets.
The rescue teams, from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Punjab Police, other agencies and private volunteers, have been working non-stop since the wee hours of Sunday. Till Wednesday evening (5 p.m.), the rescue teams had clocked nearly 65 hours.
'Our rescue work will go on for two more days at least. We are trying to get near the centre of the pile of the debris to look for any survivors. Our teams are trying to create tunnels from all sides,' J.K. Rawat, deputy inspector general (DIG) of NDRF, who is supervising the rescue, said at the site.
He said because the debris 'is in a collapsible state we cannot use heavy machinery. We are using technology to find any survivors'.
Sandeep, 17, a worker in the Shital Fibres factory was pulled out by rescue teams early Wednesday.
Rescuers said the youth had no major injuries despite being buried under heaps of concrete and iron since Sunday midnight.
He was rushed to the hospital for medical attention.
'He had been located yesterday (Tuesday) evening itself by our rescue teams. We had started giving him food and water. However, he was finally taken out today (Wednesday) morning only after creating a tunnel in the debris to reach him,' an official of the NDRF said.
Sandeep told the teams that there were bodies of other workers lying close to the place where he was trapped. He said most of them were dead.
Over 100 workers could still be trapped under the debris, according to unconfirmed reports.
Manoj Kumar, a worker at the factory, said that he was waiting for his brother who was still missing.
'After so many hours, we have not found him. We fear for the worst,' he said.
The owner of the unit, Jalandhar-based industrialist Shital Vij, was arrested Monday night and booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who visited the site Tuesday, has ordered safety audit of all industrial buildings across Punjab following the incident. Badal announced compensation of Rs.200,000 to the kin of each of the dead.
He told reporters that the owner of the building would be solely responsible for any act of negligence.
Badal had Monday ordered a high-level probe to be conducted by the Jalandhar divisional commissioner.
On Tuesday, he ordered two more inquiries - one by police into the criminal aspect of the building collapse and a technical inquiry to look into technical flaws and shortcomings.
Badal has sought the final reports of all the inquiries in three weeks.
On Monday, Deputy Commissioner Priyank Bharti said neither the administration nor the factory owners had a clear idea of how many workers, mostly migrants from other states, were still trapped under the flattened building.
'From the given information, 60-70 workers were inside the factory when the building collapsed,' Bharti had said.
The safety certification of the collapsed factory had expired over a year ago and had not been renewed. The factory building was constructed four-five years ago.
Shital Fibres claims to be the largest mink blanket manufacturer in South Asia. It is a 100 percent export oriented unit, exporting mink blankets to several countries in Europe, Middle East, Africa, United States, South America, Australia and Southeast Asia. The factory has a staff strength of nearly 2,000.
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