India police hunt for owner of explosives after blast

Updated: 2015-09-13 16:52


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NEW DELHI - Indian police said on Sunday they were hunting for the owner of illegally stored explosives which accidentally detonated in the centre of a crowded town, killing at least 88 people.

Rajendra Kaswa has been charged with illegally storing gelatin sticks and urea, a common fertiliser, next to a restaurant and busy junction in the town of Petlawad in central India, a senior police official and the divisional commissioner Sanjay Dubey said.

"He is on the run. One of his accomplices has already been arrested. He has been charged under the Explosives Act," Dubey told Reuters by telephone from the site of Saturday's blast, one of the deadliest in India in recent years.

Police initially thought the accident was triggered by an exploding gas cylinder in the restaurant, which then detonated the explosives next door, but officers now believe it originated in the warehouse next to the restaurant where Kaswa stored explosive materials and chemicals.

Kaswa held a licence for the explosives but keeping them so close to a restaurant in a densely populated part of town was illegal, senior police official Seema Alava said.

At least 88 people were killed in the explosions as the multi-storey restaurant and adjacent buildings collapsed, sending debris hurtling into the streets during the morning rush hour.

Television footage showed bodies strewn across the ground amid mangled motorbikes and chunks of concrete. Police said they had since removed all the bodies from the scene.

More than 100 were injured in the blasts.

The chief minister of Madhya Pradesh state arrived at the scene on Sunday where his convoy was blocked by angry locals waving black flags, the Times of India reported.

Local media have said residents previously complained about the location of the explosives but authorities failed to act.

The state government said a full probe into the explosions would be carried out, while officials from New Delhi have been dispatched to help with the investigation.