2 owners of firecrackers unit hit by blast and fire in Harda arrested; another man detained

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Harda/Bhopal, Feb 7 (PTI) Two owners of the firecrackers factory in Madhya Pradesh's Harda town, where an explosion and subsequent blaze killed 11 people and injured 174 others, have been arrested by the police, officials said.

They were booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, among other charges, after an FIR was filed against them on Tuesday evening, they said.

Another person was detained in connection with the incident that took place on Tuesday in the Bairagarh locality on Magardha Road on the outskirts of Harda town, approximately 150km from the state capital Bhopal.

Chief Minister Mohan Yadav will meet the injured persons and families of the deceased in Harda on Wednesday, an official said.

The two factory owners -- identified as Rajesh Agrawal and Somesh Agrawal -- were arrested on Tuesday evening from Sarangpur in Rajgarh district, while one more person named Rafiq Khan was detained, Harda Superintendent of Police Sanjeev Kanchan told reporters.

These accused were booked under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention), he said.

Khan was detained for questioning, the SP said without providing further details about him.

As per police sources, Khan is said to be the manager of the factory.

The cause of the explosion was not yet known, officials said.

The incident prompted the state government to seek Army's helicopters for evacuation.

Out of the 174 people rescued from the incident site, 34 were referred to Bhopal and Hoshangabad, while 140 were undergoing treatment in the district hospital, Narmadapuram Commissioner Pawan Sharma told reporters on Tuesday.

One death was reported from among the people who were referred, and 10 deaths were reported from the district hospital, he said.

"The fire has been doused and debris is being removed from the site. Investigation into the matter is underway," he added.

The sound of the explosion was heard 25 kilometres away and eyewitnesses said body parts were scattered at a distance from the site and vehicles on a nearby road were hit by splinters.

CM Yadav visited Hamidia Hospital in Bhopal on Tuesday to meet the injured persons.

The Madhya Pradesh government has constituted a three-member committee to be headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Home) to conduct a detailed probe into the explosion at the firecrackers unit.

The other members of the high-powered committee are -- Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), Intelligence, Jaideep Prasad and Public Works Department (PWD) Secretary RK Mehra.

The panel is also mandated to fix the responsibility of those officials who were supposed to prevent such incidents. PTI COR ADU MAS RSY GK