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6 die, ‘20 trapped’ in Ludhiana 

Ludhiana: Six persons were killed and two injured when a five-storeyed building collapsed following a major fire at a plastic manufacturing and chemical factory at Mustaq Ganj, near Cheema Chowk, here today.

At least 20 persons, including firefighters and some locals, were feared trapped under the debris.

A blast was heard shortly before the building collapsed around noon, trapping those trying to douse the blaze, besides others. Six bodies were retrieved from the rubble, while the two injured were shifted to Christian Medical College and Hospital.

The deceased were Samaon Gill (sub-fire officer), Puran Singh, Rajan (both firemen), Laxman Dravid (Municipal Corporation official) and Inderpal Singh (owner of nearby Pal Taxi Services). The sixth deceased was yet to be identified.

Those trapped include sub-fire officers Rajinder Sharma and Raj Kumar, and firemen Manohar Lal, Vishal Kumar, Manpreet Singh and Sukhdev Singh. 

Assistant Divisional Fire Officer Bhupinder Singh said: “Shortly before the collapse, an official told me that the fire was under control. At least nine firemen were inside the building at that time.” The officials, however, did not confirm the exact number of people trapped.

More than 15 fire tenders were rushed to the scene even as the Army and teams of the National Disaster Response Force and State Disaster Response Force joined the rescue operation. 

Volunteers of NGO Khalsa Aid were also helping the rescuers while JCB machines were deployed to remove the debris. The fire was reported around 8 am at Amarson Polymers, owned by Inderjeet Singh Gola, which manufactures pouches for packaging. It is learnt that a large quantity of chemical used in printing was also stored inside the factory. A large number of people who had assembled outside the building ran for safety as the structure came down. Three houses adjoining the factory were damaged, but there were no reports of any casualty as the occupants had been evacuated.

Local residents said they had opposed the construction of the factory in the residential area. Deputy Commissioner Pradeep Kumar Aggarwal said: “The rescue operation is on to save those trapped. It may take a few days to remove the debris completely.”

DCP Dhruman Nimbale said a case under Section 304-A of the IPC had been registered against the factory owner. “We will look how chemical stock was stored in the factory,” he said. In the absence of fire safety kits, some firemen were seen wearing wet sacks to protect themselves from fire, while some had covered their faces with cloth.

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