Worker rescued 55 hours after Jalandhar factory collapse


Jalandhar : A teenage boy was pulled out from the debris of the collapsed blanket factory here Wednesday, nearly 55 hours after the four-storey building had been flattened, police said. Many more people could still be trapped, officials said as rescue efforts continued for the third day.

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Sandeep, 17, a worker in the Shital Fibres factory was pulled out by rescue teams early Wednesday.

According to authorities, the death toll has reached 10 and could rise with many more still under the debris of the factory in Focal Point area in Jalandhar, about 150 km from here.

Rescuers and police said that the young man had no major injuries despite being buried under heaps of concrete and iron since Sunday midnight.

He was rushed to the hospital for medical attention.

“He had been located yesterday (Tuesday) evening itself by our rescue teams. We had started giving him food and water. However, he was finally taken out today (Wednesday) morning only after creating a tunnel in the debris to reach him,” an official of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) here said.

The rescued man told the teams that there were bodies of other workers of the factory lying close to the place where he was trapped. He said most of them were dead.

Over 100 workers could still be trapped under the debris, according to unconfirmed reports. Over 60 workers had been rescued from the debris of the collapsed building till Wednesday morning, police said.

The owner of the unit, Jalandhar-based industrialist Shital Vij, was arrested Monday night and booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who visited the site Tuesday ordered safety audit of all industrial buildings across Punjab following the incident. Badal announced compensation of Rs.200,000 to the kin of each of the dead.

He told reporters after the visit that the owner of the building would be solely responsible for any act of negligence in case of the collapse.

Badal had Monday ordered a high-level probe into the factory collapse to be conducted by the Jalandhar divisional commissioner.

The chief minister Tuesday ordered two more inquiries into the incident – one by police to look into the criminal aspect of the building collapse and a technical inquiry to look into the technical flaws and shortcomings.

Badal has sought the final reports of all the inquiries within three weeks.

On Monday, Deputy Commissioner Priyank Bharti said neither the administration nor the factory owners had a clear idea on how many workers, mostly migrants from other states, were still trapped under the flattened factory building.

“From the given information, 60-70 workers were inside the factory when the building collapsed,” Bharti had said.

The safety certification of the collapsed factory had expired over a year ago and had not been renewed. The factory building was constructed four-five years ago.

The company, Shital Fibres, claims to be the largest mink blanket manufacturer in south Asia. It is a 100 percent export oriented unit, exporting mink blankets to several countries in Europe, Middle-east, Africa, United States, South America, Australia and southeast Asia. The factory has a staff strength of nearly 2,000.