Rescuers strive to save buried workers in Punjab

Jalandhar: Rescuers today raced against time in Punjab’s Jalandhar city to save the lives of dozens of garment workers who were trapped under the debris of a factory building that collapsed two days ago, killing six people, police said.

Over 200 workers could still be trapped under the debris, according to unconfirmed reports. Nearly 60 workers were rescued from the debris of the collapsed building till today morning, police said.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who visited the site today ordered safety audit of all industrial buildings across Punjab following the incident. Badal announced a compensation of Rs.200,000 to the kin of each of the dead.

Meanwhile, the owner of the unit, Jalandhar-based industrialist Sheetal Vij was arrested by the police Monday night and booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. He was also booked under other sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Six workers were killed and several others trapped when the four-storeyed building of Sheetal Fabrics owned by Vij collapsed late Sunday night.

Badal, who arrived at the site of the collapsed blanket manufacturing factory at Jalandhar’s Focal Point said that safety audit of industrial buildings will now be a regular feature.

The chief minister announced that special safety audit will be conducted in all the industrial units and cities across the state by the departments of industries and local government respectively, to ascertain the defects in the buildings responsible for such disastrous accidents.

Talking to the media after the visit, Badal said that the owner of the building would be solely responsible for any act of negligence in case of the collapse.

He said all the guilty involved in the incident would be punished as the law of the land would take its own course.

Badal had Monday ordered a high-level probe into the factory collapse to be conducted by the Jalandhar divisional commissioner.

The chief minister Tuesday ordered two more inquiries into the incident – one by the police to look into the criminal aspect of the building collapse and a technical inquiry to look into the technical flaws and shortcomings.

Badal has sought the final reports of all these inquiries within three weeks.

A massive rescue operation was mounted by various agencies, including the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Punjab Police, army and local authorities to rescue the trapped workers, mostly migrant workers from other states, after the building collapsed, 150-km from state capital Chandigarh.

Earlier on Monday, Deputy Commissioner Priyank Bharti said neither the administration nor the factory owners had a clear idea on how many workers, mostly migrants from other states, were still trapped under the flattened factory 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.


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