Poor health facilities for fire cracker workers

The only government hospital at Sivakasi, the fireworks hub of the country, is ill-equipped.
For 750 cracker units employing lakhs of workers in the region, the hospital has a small burns ward with a scanty bed strength of 12.

It is plagued by staff shortage, lack of medical equipment and infrastructure to handle burns victims who pour in after explosions every Deepavali season when most factories rush to meet deadlines thereby throwing safety norms to winds.

With a high-intensity explosion in Om Sakthi Fireworks claiming 38 lives and causing injuries to 62 persons, a major catastrophe in the last 2 decades, the hospital could not face the terrible situation.

For, there were no adequate beds, no `ice’ water to give cold water therapy to victims reeling under unbearable burning sensation on their bodies, no sufficient number of doctors and staff nurses et al.

“We have only 4 doctors, and all of them pediatricians, against a sanctioned strength of 17. There is not even a single doctor exclusively for the burns ward which has only 2 staff nurses. As for hospital and sanitary workers, there are only 7,” said a nurse.

The burns ward neither has a refrigerator nor a generator. “The first thing done when a burns victim is rushed is to give him or her cold therapy for which we need to buy cans and cans of cold water from outside as there is not even a refrigerator in the hospital,” another nurse lamented.

They make do with the lukewarm tap water. With not even a shower fitted in the therapy room, the nurses either pour water from buckets on patients or use water hose to give a soothing effect. This apart, the four air-conditioners in men and women’s sections fail to work quite often even during the few hours of power supply.

This burns ward in itself being a new building, there is a skin graft storage room, separate dressing rooms for men and women and lab but many of them are found empty.

Medics and paramedics here hope the specialty burns ward proposal would take off. But it seems to remain on paper.

Forensic team begins probe

A day after the gory fire mishap at Sivakasi that claimed 39 lives, a special team from the Tamil Nadu fire and rescue service department visited the spot and conducted a detailed inspection. The TNFRS team is checking to find the cause of the fire and a report in this regard would be filed soon, said its director Bhola Nath.

The DGP, accompanied with other senior officials from the department, inspected the blast site. Forensic experts also conducted a detailed analysis and collected samples from the spot to run further tests.

“The owners of the godown had stored high quantities of chemical in a store room which were to be used later. When the fire spread, this chemical storeroom exploded and the concrete shrapnel that flew from the blast site hit all the people who ran towards the factory to help the ones trapped inside. This was the main reason behind the high death toll,” said DGP Bhola Nath.

The director also said that a detailed report would be submitted soon after certain technical aspects of the blasts were analysed. With Diwali fast approaching, district teams attached to the fire service would also conduct checks to ensure all the other units in the belt are adhering to the safety norms.

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