The tragedy in Thripunithura, Kerala, has once again shed light on the flagrant disregard for safety regulations, following a blast at an illegal firecracker storage unit connected to a temple festival on February 12. This incident serves as a stark reminder of the authorities’ failure to learn from past tragedies. Just a year ago, Ernakulam experienced a similar disaster when an explosion at an unauthorized firecracker storage unit in Muttinakam, Varapuzha, resulted in one fatality and seven injuries, including three children, on February 28, 2023.
The Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) previously discovered that the unapproved unit was operating without the necessary authorization, as per the Explosives Rules. The recent blast at the temporary storage facility in Choorakadu during the temple festival is a clear violation of these rules. According to the regulations, the temple authorities should have sought permission from the District Collector, acting as the District Magistrate, to conduct the fireworks display.
Furthermore, while the District Magistrate could recommend a license for firecracker storage, it would only be granted after a thorough risk assessment and site inspection. In densely populated areas like the location of the blast, approval for firecracker storage or possession would not be permitted by the District Magistrate or enforcement agencies. Senior officials from PESO emphasized the importance of proper handling of explosives and raw materials, highlighting the prohibition of handling any explosive between sunset and sunrise without supervision from a competent individual.
The lapses in police oversight were also apparent, as a fireworks display at the temple was held without the mandatory approval of the District Magistrate. Despite registering a case against the organizing body, Thekkumpuram Karayogam, no action was taken against the Vadakkumpuram Karayogam responsible for the fireworks display on the following day. These instances underscore the need for stricter enforcement of safety regulations and the importance of holding accountable those responsible for ensuring compliance.