CRUDE EXPLOSIVES GO OFF AS CURIOUS VASAI VILLAGERS PICK UP BAG CONTAINING BOTTLES
Agroup of labourers from Umela village in Vasai, walking to work at around 7.30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, noticed a blue plastic bag lying on the side of the main road near Babhola Naka, a little distance away from D-Mart in Vasai West. One of them picked it up and before the group had even walked a small distance, the bag exploded.
The blast injured four labourers, three of them women, who got pierced by glass shards and other shrapnel from the three crude (gavthi) bombs that were inside the bag. The injured, identified as Dinesh Khopatkar (25), Sugandha Khopatkar (20), Shevanti Wagh (36) and Jaymala Chaudhari (50) were rushed to the government hospital in Vasai where the staff got busy extracting the pieces of glass from their legs. Doctors said that most of the severe injuries sustained by the victims were below the waist level.
One of the victims, Shevanti, said, “I saw this blue plastic bag lying near the bushes and opened it out of curiosity just to see what was in it. There was a shirt, banian, and a handkerchief and in the bottom were four small bottles. I tried to open one of the bottles, and suddenly, it blew up. All the four bottles burst and glass pierces enetered our bodies.”
Dr Vinay Salpure, Resident Medical Officer (RMO) of the hospital at Vasai said that it was clear that the chemicals contained some explosive material, "All the patients have suffered glass splinter injuries in the abdominal area and some in the legs, however they all have been removed. Sugandha who is four months pregnant also suffered major abdominal injuries, but Sugandha and her baby were safe.”
Harish Jadhav, a local resident, said, “We heard a loud sound and initially assumed it was a transformer that went off, a regular occurrence in Vasai which experiences a lot of load shedding. Some of the residents living in the immediate vicinity were going about switching off their household appliances thinking the electricity had gone off, only to hear three more loud bangs. I rushed out and reached the spot of the incident, and helped take the four people, including three women, to the government hospital. They had glass pieces lodged inside their legs and were writhing in pain. There were also some whitish marks on the road and on their legs which came off the bombs in that bag.”
Another local, Anuradha Vaiti, said, “The police landed up in a short while, but there was not too much to go on because the rains washed off much of the evidence of the blast and the road looked like nothing had happened. There were some blood stains that later got washed away, leaving some mark like from a fire cracker on the road.”
The authorities were quick enough to rule out a bomb theory and insisting that it was merely an accidental explosion caused of due to chemical reaction. Ruling out terror plot or use of explosives behind the blast, Additional Superintendent of Police, Thane ( rural), Sangramsingh Nishandaar said, “It seems to an accidental blast caused to chemical reaction. However we are not taking any chances, the bottles found with some liquid have been sent for chemical analysis and investigations are on to trace the culprits who abandoned the bag carrying such volatile chemicals.” However it is suspected that bottles contained phosphorous, which is illegally used for blast fishing in the nearby creek and ponds. Senior officials including, Thane (rural) SP, Ravindra Sengaonkar, visited the spot. Security arrangements were beefed up in the Vasai-Virar region immediately after the incident, since there was also speculation that the liquid in the bottles might a type of crude bomb to be used by dacoits to loot jewelry stores.
The police came up with this theory because the bottles were found hidden beneath clothes.
Dipak Devraj, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP),Vasai told the ADC, “Prima facie, it appears that the liquid must belong to tribals who catch fish from ponds. We suspect that some tribals may have kept the bag near the bushes and must have forgotten to collect it. We called a Forensic team from Kalina who collected the samples for chemical analysis. The Bomb Detection and the dog squad from the Thane Rural police were pressed into service but due to the torrential downpour on Tuesday, vital clues were wiped out."
The police have registered a case under Sections 336 (endangering life), 337 (negligence conduct with respect to explosive substance) and 286 (causing hurt) of the IPC against unknown persons and are investigating further.
Some police officers said that they also suspect that if the chemical was a crude bomb, the carrier might have thrown it there fearing nakabandis.
(With inputs from Sayed Roshan)