Six killed while disposing of explosives meant for quarrying in Karnataka; CID inquiry ordered

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(Eds: Adds details and reax) Bengaluru/Chikkaballapur, Feb 23 (PTI) Six people were killed when the gelatin sticks they were trying to dispose of clandestinely exploded accidentally at a stone quarry site in a village in Chikkaballapur early Tuesday, police said.

The government has ordered a CID probe into the blast.

Police said preliminary investigation indicated use of petroleum gel and Ammonium Nitrate in the quarry that was operating clandestinely and was closed a few days ago following raids.

The incident comes close on the heels of a similar blast at a quarry site in Yediyurappa's hometown of Shivamogga on January 22, which left six dead.

Karnataka Health Minister K Sudhakar, who represents the Chikkaballapur constituency, visited the spot and said the bodies of the victims were badly mutilated and scattered all over the place.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences to the families of the victims of the blast.

'Pained by the loss of lives due to a mishap at Chikkaballapur in Karnataka.Condolences to the bereaved families.Praying that the injured recover quickly,' he said.

Expressing shock over the incident, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said he has ordered a thorough investigation into the case and directed the officials to take stringent action against the guilty.

'A high-level investigation into the incident is underway and stringent action will be taken against the guilty,' he added.

'.....Whoever is involved in illegal activities, we will take merciless action,' he said.

Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai ordered a CID inquiry into the blast after visiting the spot.

According to police, the incident took place at Hirenagavalli near Peresandra.

Quarrying was stopped by the police on February 7 following complaints from the locals against rampant use of gelatin sticks.

Yet, it continued clandestinely following which another raid was carried out a few days ago and the contractor was warned not to use gelatin anymore.

The men working there went in a vehicle to dispose of the explosives early Tuesday when it went off accidentally.

The driver of the vehicle who escaped with severe injuries in the legs and hand told police that the victims took him along carrying a bag with them.

'They were holding a bag and asked me to drive the vehicle to the forest.I remained seated in the vehicle but the door was open.They went to a secluded place and suddenly the blast occurred,' the driver said.

According to a statement issued by Bommai's office, Sri Shirdi Sai Agencies owned the quarry spread over six acres.

While the mining was taking place in three acres, the rest of the area had the stone crushing facility.

Karnataka Mines and Geology Minister Murugesh R Nirani said in a series of tweets that the government has been taking stringent measures against illegal mining activities, transportation and storage of explosives used for mining.

'It's rather very unfortunate that the blast occurred in Chikkaballapur before the wounds of the Shivamogga blast have healed,' Nirani said.

The government will leave no stone unturned in ensuring the safety of people in the mining areas, he said,adding a thorough probe will be conducted to ascertain the cause of the explosion and those responsible will be punished.

Nirani further said the government will provide all necessary assistance to the kin of the deceased and injured.

Praying for the speedy recovery of the injured, he said senior officials were already at the spot and assessing the situation.

'I have learnt from the officials that the explosives were stored before the Shivamogga blast.The culprits will not be spared no matter how much influence they wield.' The minister underlined the importance of training skilled workers and creation of mining schools in Karnataka to avoid such tragedies.

The opposition Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) on Tuesday held the ruling BJP in the state responsible for the blast.

'The blast in Chikkaballapur which killed six people occurred due to the irresponsible government. How many more innocent lives should the government sacrifice?' Congress Karnataka unit chief D K Shivakumar said in a statement.

'The Chikkaballapur explosion within a month of the Shivamogga gelatin explosion is a testament to the state government's inaction, irresponsibility and collusion in this illegality and corruption,' leader of opposition Siddaramaiah tweeted.

The Congress party alleged in a statement that BJP leaders were behind the illegalities just as they were involved in Shivamogga and held Sudhakar directly responsible for this incident.

JD(S) leader and former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy alleged many ministers and MLAs were involved in the illegal quarrying across the state. PTI GMS BN BN BN