Lethal Fire at India’s Nuclear Research Laboratory

NEW DELHI—Two people have died in a fire in India’s main nuclear research laboratory, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai. No nuclear reactor or radiation was involved, according to the spokesperson for the Department of Atomic Energy.

Workers became aware of the fire just after noon today when they heard an explosion in an area known as a modular laboratory. The flames were doused within 45 minutes, according to lab officials. Rescue crews recovered two bodies.

Described as the worst accident in the facility’s 55-year history, the fire was confined to one lab. Although the cause hasn’t been identified, department officials have called it a typical chemical fire. Police are investigating; informed government sources say it does not seem to involve terrorist activity.

Srikumar Banerjee, chair of India’s Atomic Energy Commission, told ScienceInsider that the "sad accident" was not related to the nation’s strategic program. "All activities have since resumed normally at BARC," said Banerjee, who has sought a fire safety audit of all BARC facilities.