Dombivli factory blast has left more than 1,500 residents homeless

May 28, 2016, 11:30 IST | Faisal Tandel

The fate of affected residents of MIDC Phase II is in limbo; local authorities won't let them enter their homes, forcing them to live on the streets

The chemical factory explosion at Dombivli has left more than 1,500 residents homeless. Municipal authorities and officials from the collector's office asked them to vacate their homes, stating that they are still controlling the situation and another blast might occur at any time.

Stranded residents cannot leave the area since the blast tore down the windows and doors of their homes, making it an easy target for robbers. Pics/Satej Shinde
Stranded residents cannot leave the area since the blast tore down the windows and doors of their homes, making it an easy target for robbers. Pics/Satej Shinde

Yesterday, most of the residents were waiting on the roads, in halls and other open spaces in the blistering heat. They claim authorities have not helped them with food or accommodation. Speaking to mid-day Vipul Gandhi (53), a resident of Pushpam Villa said, "We have been staying on the road for two days. On Thursday night, we were allowed to go back to our homes, but on Friday morning, the authorities asked us to leave. They claim that a boiler can explode at anytime."

Sleepless nights
Shivraman N, a retired Senior PA with Central Railway who resides in the same building said, "The area has become dangerous. Authorities should either allow residential complexes or chemical factories, not both. Both of these at same place will ultimately affect the residents. I had invested my life's savings in the flat, how could we leave the place?"

Shivraman claims sleepless nights are the only option left for them. He added, "There's no help from politicians and local bodies during such a big tragedy. Few people came and asked us to vacate the fat. Who were they and what were they up to? They should have given a letter or notice."

Navnaat Tambe (39) of Mahaganpato Darshan building said, "We visited our home on Thursday night. But at 11.45pm, there were rumours that a fire had broken out again and we started running. We ran away due to rumours more than four times in fear. Till what time we have to be out? Hope the authorities wake up."

Rajesh Shigwan (45) of Varde Viniyak building said, "We are monitoring the area as watchmen as most of the windows and doors are open and the thieves are alert. We fear for our kids because it's unsafe for them to stay at home or outside. Where else do we go?"

Aniruddha Asthaputre from the district collector's public relations office said more than five teams are surveying the buildings. "Around 800 rooms have been surveyed and the process is going on."

No safety audit

The Probace Enterprises chemical unit had not had a safety audit done in a long time, said the Industrial Safety and Health Department in Kalyan. An official from the department said, "In February 2016, the department had told the company that it needed a safety audit and asked it to get one done soon. But since they didn't, the explosions occurred." According to a survey conducted by the department, the Dombivli MIDC unit has 450 factories, in which 270 are chemical factories. While voicing his concern about their staff crunch, the official said, "We only have four factory inspectors and only one of them inspects these 450 factories. Other three inspect the factories in Ambarnath, Badlapur and Taloja areas."

Toll reaches 11
The fire officials, along with National Disaster Reserve Force, recovered the dead bodies of Probace Enterprises owners - Nandan, Snehal and Sumit Wakhatkar — and three others yesterday, taking the toll of the Thursday blasts up to 11. "We got two ex-employees of Probace with knowledge of the building to help us rescue people. We found six dead bodies from the debris on Friday. The rescue operation continued till 9 pm," said Atul M, fire officials, Ambarnath fire station. Around 45 NDRF officials along with fire officials were part of the rescue operation. Parag Dusane, a relative of Wakhatkar family, owners of the Probace Enterprises, said, "On Friday the rescue team recovered their bodies. It is a huge tragedy as it took away three people from one family." The Manpada police have also registered a case under Section 304 (A) (Causing death by negligence) of the IPC against the firm.

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