It was a dark Christmas for Kalyan’s Arya Gurukul school. The celebrations on Christmas Eve ended tragically after a balloon seller’s helium cylinder burst inside the premises, leaving him dead and 13 others injured, including five children.

A report in this paper yesterday stated that the balloon seller had entered the school to sell balloons to families as they were leaving. The explosion was so intense that he was flung from the spot. Panic ensued as, at first, people mistook the noise for a bomb blast. Many had already left after the programme got over, so a bigger crisis was averted. However, there are children still in hospital being treated for burn injuries.

It is time the authorities step in to regulate balloon sellers and helium cylinders present at celebrations. This is especially important because such parties usually involve children. Of late, one has seen a number of accidents turning happy occasions into tragedy, with injuries and even deaths. In a number of instances, it was suspected that the helium balloons were filled with hydrogen, resulting in an explosion and severe burn injuries for those present.

We want to see licences issued to helium balloon sellers. Legislation needs to be brought in to strictly regulate cylinder sales, and any violations must result in severe penalty.

Perhaps, even venues like party or wedding halls must draw up rules and precautions to be taken if there are helium balloon vendors on the premises. What precautions need to be taken? Should people be told to maintain a certain distance while the balloons are being filled? Should the balloons even be filled in these places at all? These are questions that need to be asked.

Let this tragedy be a catalyst to bring regulation, licences and strict rules for helium cylinders and helium balloons.