Hyderabad: At least 12 workers, 11 of them women, were charred to death and six others injured when a blast Monday rocked a firecrackers unit in Andhra Pradesh, police said.
The accident took place in a building in coastal East Godavari district's Vakatippa village. Firecrackers were being manufactured illegally in the building, they said.
The fire, which triggered several explosions, destroyed the building. Two fire engines battled for two hours to douse the flames.
The condition of four of the injured, admitted to a private hospital in Kakinada town, was stated to be critical.
Two other injured were undergoing treatment in a government-run hospital. All the victims were workers in the unit, which was manufacturing firecrackers for the coming Diwali festival.
A burning cigarette is suspected to have led to the fire.
Expressing his shock over the incident, Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu announced Rs.2 lakh compensations to the families of each of those killed. He directed officials to provide all medical help to the injured.
Naidu told reporters in Hyderabad that the East Godavari district collector will conduct an inquiry. He said if the manufacturing unit was found to be functioning illegally, strict action will be taken against its owner.
Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister Chinna Rajappa and senior officials visited the scene and supervised rescue and relief operations.
YSR Congress party chief Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy also expressed shock and grief over the incident.
Meanwhile, police in Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts of Telangana conducted raids on firecrackers shops opened in violation of rules.
Over 40 cases were booked against shop owners for opening their outlets without permission. Police seized firecrackers worth Rs.30 lakh.