The Labour and Employment Department of Gujarat Government on Tuesday issued a closure notice to UPL Ltd (United Phosphorus Ltd) after a blast and major fire at the company’s Jhagadia plant claimed two lives and injured 26. Five labourers are still missing, authorities said.

A company statement said a fire broke out at 1.35 am on February 23, followed by an explosion at one of its plants, which was shut since February 5 for a planned annual boiler inspection.

“We have issued a closure order to the facility so that more lives are not put at risk. We will review the safety aspects,” P M Shah, Director DISH said.

In its statement, the company said, “Since the plant was shut, there was no chemical reaction in progress. There were no chemical or gas leaks because of the fire/explosion either during or after this incident. Given the intensity, prima facie, it appears that the fire may have been caused due to fire/explosion in the solvent which could have been caused due to electric short circuit. We do not rule out possible foul play, as there was no operation at the plant.”

“After the fire department brought the fire under control, we were able to get access to the site this evening, we have found two fatalities at the site and an additional five workers missing. In addition, 26 workers were injured and received treatment in the hospital, out of which 15 are discharged and 11 are in the hospital. None of them are critical. The company will stand by and compensate the family members of the deceased and affected workers,” it added.

The senior officials from Bharuch District said, “The fire has been brought under control. The search for the missing persons is on but the heat of the debris is making it difficult. We will have Assistant Director – Chemicals from Gujarat government inspect the site and analyse the cause of the fire,” the official told BusinessLine .

Vipul Mittra, Additional Chief Secretary - Labour and Employment, Gujarat, stated that UPL Ltd has been directed to pay ex-gratia compensation to the next of kin of the deceased workers.

Meanwhile, UPL has appointed an internal investigation team to carry out a detailed investigation to ascertain the cause for this fire. “We will also have an independent investigation conducted to identify the root cause of the incident,” UPL said.

After losing by over 3 per cent in early trades on Tuesday, UPL shares ended 5 per cent up at ₹566.50 on BSE.