Himachal factory fire: Death toll rises to 5, efforts to control blaze underway

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Baddi Fire Solan

Shimla: The death toll in the fire at a perfume manufacturing unit in the Baddi industrial area of Himachal Pradesh's Solan increased to five as firefighters were working to bring the blaze under control nearly 24 hours after it started, officials said on Saturday.

The massive fire broke out around 2:45 pm on Friday. A search is also underway to trace nine persons who are still missing, a senior officer said, adding that 31 people suffered injuries in the fire.

A woman referred to the PGIMER Chandigarh was declared brought dead on Friday. Thereafter four more bodies were recovered from the site, Deputy Commissioner of Solan Manmohan Sharma said.

The fire is yet to be brought under control as inflammable substances used for manufacturing perfumes and other cosmetics are catching fire, he said.

After an FIR under sections 285 (negligence), 336 (endangering life), 337 (causing hurt and (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC was registered, factory head of N R Aromas company, Chander Shekhar, has been arrested, the police said in a statement issued here.

Director General of Police Sanjay Kundu, who reached the spot and took stock of the situation, constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Additional Superintendent of Police Ashok Verma to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter.

The deputy commissioner said a magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the incident, and adequate compensation would be given to the kin of the dead and the injured.

"People jumped from the first and second floors of the building to save their lives and sustained multiple injuries on hands, legs and even spine," Sharma said and added that the reason behind the fire is yet to be ascertained.

Thick smoke oozing from the cosmetic material hindered the fire-fighting operations, and workers climbed on top of the building for safety, eyewitnesses said.

The family members and friends of the missing people are anxiously waiting outside the factory and a woman whose daughter is missing was seen wailing in a video that went viral on social media.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is currently assessing the structural safety of the site and working to clear it of hazardous gases such as Carbon Monoxide, Hydrogen Sulphide and Sulphur Dioxide, police added.

Following the clearance, a team of forensic experts will conduct spot inspection and collect necessary evidence. Given the complex nature of the fire, the DGP has requested the state government for assistance from the Central Forensic Science Team of the Government of India.

Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu could not undertake a proposed visit to the site of the fire as his chopper could not take off due to inclement weather.