Balloon burst: Cylinder explosion injures vendor, 13 children

Blast occurred right after pushcart owner added some kind of powder in a gas cylinder, say eyewitnesses

Our Correspondent November 21, 2016

SUKKUR: Fourteen people, including 13 children, were severely injured when a gas cylinder used to fill balloons exploded in Raban Samejo village, within the limits of the Cantonment police station in Pano Akil, District Sukkur Sunday evening.

A man, identified as Shahid Mochi, who was transporting a gas cylinder on a pushcart with gas-filled balloons attached to the cart, visited Raban Samejo village Sunday evening. Upon seeing the gas-filled balloons, the children rushed to Mochi's cart to buy them.

According to eyewitnesses, the gas pressure in the cylinder was quite low and, in order to enhance the pressure, Mochi added some kind of powder to it. Soon after he added the powder, the cylinder exploded, injuring 13 children and Mochi himself.

Police rushed to the scene and shifted the injured to Combined Military Hospital in Pano Akil Cantonment and Civil Hospital, Sukkur.

"I was playing with the other children when I saw a man carrying a gas cylinder on a pushcart approaching us. We rushed to his pushcart to buy gas-filled balloons," eight-year-old Muhammad Faheem, whose legs were fractured in the explosion, told The Express Tribune.

While the man was trying to fill the balloons, I saw a spark coming out of the pipe, after which a huge explosion occurred, said Faheem, explaining that the impact of the blast was so intense that all the children flew back and landed at least 10 to 15 feet away from the pushcart.

"On Monday, I opened my eyes to see both my legs plastered," said the boy.

Faheem's grandfather, Imam Din Samejo, who at the time of the incident was sitting outside his house said the balloon seller was speaking to someone over the phone while adding the white powder as per the instructions he received from the other end of the line.

The balloon seller had kept the phone on speaker and when thick smoke started coming out of the nozzle of the cylinder, Mochi told the man on the other line about the smoke and the man asked him [Mochi] to run away from the cylinder, said Imam Din.

Imam Din also claimed that as soon as the balloon seller started to move away from the cart, a huge explosion occurred and the children flew back. The explosion was so intense that it was heard within a one-kilometre radius, he claimed, adding that soon after the incident he snatched Mochi's phone and later handed it over to the police.

Zameer Samejo, while looking after his seven-year-old daughter Rehana who had received burn injuries on her face and chest, said that that the balloon seller knew nothing about the operation of a gas cylinder.

He was continuously speaking to somebody on his phone while attempting to fill the balloons, said Zameer, adding that at least a dozen such balloon sellers visit different villages of Pano Akil, which can prove disastrous for residents. Zameer appealed to senior officials for the ban of the use of such cylinders to avoid similar incidents in the future.

Habibur Rehman, Hamza Ali and Waliullah were among some of the other children who were injured in the blast.

Meanwhile, Mochi, who was also admitted at Civil Hospital, Sukkur with a fractured leg, said that, irked by unemployment, he had decided to start the business of selling gas-filled balloons. According to him, his elder brother Ramzan is an expert at using gas cylinders.

He said that it had been five days since he started selling gas-filled balloons and he was talking to his brother on the phone and adding the powder when everything went wrong.

The balloon seller clarified that there was no time to tell the children to run away when his brother warned him over the phone to move away when smoke started coming out of the cylinder's nozzle. The area police is investigating the matter.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2016.


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