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First round of rescue operation completed at Harda firecrackers unit blast site: Official

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Harda/Bhopal, Feb 7 (PTI) Recue personnel armed with equipment and fire tenders have completed the first round of operation at the blast ravaged firecrackers factory in Madhya Pradesh's Harda town, a senior official said on Wednesday.

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The official said the death toll in the blast, which ripped through the factory on Tuesday morning and caused a massive fire, remained unchanged at 11, while the number of injured was more than 200.

Divisional Commissioner (Narmadapuram) Pawan Sharma told reporters at the blast site that the first phase of the rescue operation has been completed.

The firecrackers unit is located in the Bairagarh locality on the outskirts of Harda town, around 150km from the state capital Bhopal.

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Sharma said since the temperature at the site was very high due to the fire triggered by the blast, the debris was removed using earthmovers after throwing water on it through cannons.

"It is a debris of explosives. It will be turned upside down by throwing water to bring it to a stage of zero explosives and to find out if there is any fire deep within the rubble. So, the second round of operation will continue," said the senior bureaucrat.

Asked about local residents expressing apprehension that more people could be buried under the debris, Sharma ruled out such a possibility.

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"I would like to state categorically that the total human loss is 11. Entire debris has been checked by personnel of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Emergency Response Force (SDERF). Such rumours are baseless," maintained the IAS officer.

Meanwhile, more than 100 people injured in the blast were still undergoing treatment at different hospitals in Madhya Pradesh, officials said.

Sub-Divisional Officer of Police BS Maurya said he has a list of 217 people, of whom 11 have died.

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Among those injured, 73 people were admitted to the Harda district hospital. These included 51 factory workers and 22 people living in the vicinity of the explosion site, he said.

Maurya said 38 injured people were referred to other cities for treatment, while 95 were discharged.

Two persons are reported to be missing, he added.

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Sub-Divisional Magistrate KC Parte told PTI that fire pockets found under the rubble were doused.

Two owners of the factory were arrested by the police on Tuesday evening and booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, among other charges, officials earlier said.

A third person, said to be the factory's manager, was detained for questioning The cause of the explosion was not yet known, officials said.

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.

The state government has constituted a three-member committee to be headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Home) to conduct a detailed probe into the explosion. PTI ADU COR MAS GK RSY

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