KERALA: In a major fire at the Puttingal temple in Kerala’s Kollam district early this morning, Over 100 people have been killed and 350 injured during a fireworks display
The fire started around 3 am at a ground next to the temple packed with 10,000 to 15,000 people watching an all-night fireworks display that had been banned by the state government. (Pictures)
Officials said a spark ignited a stack of fireworks stored for the festival in the coastal town 60 km from Thiruvananthapuram. The fire broke out in a deafening explosion and brought down a two-storey building around which people were gathered, say witnesses.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the temple had defied orders not to allow “competitive fireworks”, which are a tradition during the seven-day festival of Goddess Kali.
“A spark from the crackers being burst fell into the stack of crackers kept in a makeshift compartment at the ground, triggering the fire. The space was an open ground,” a police official said.
Visuals on TV showed huge clouds of white smoke and explosions in the night sky. Successive explosions sent huge chunks of concrete flying as far as a kilometer according to a witness. Some parts of the temple roof caved in.
A police case has been registered against the temple authorities.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is heading to the site with a team of burn specialists and has asked the state government not to stand on ceremony for his visit.
Three naval ships, a Dornier aircraft and two Chetak helicopters have joined the rescue efforts.
The injured have been taken to 10 hospitals and according to Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, “all necessary arrangements have been made in Ernakulam and Trivandrum.” The Government Medical College in Thiruvananthapuram sent out an appeal for blood donors.
The Chief Minister tweeted that his government had asked the Election Commission for permission to help those affected in the middle of an election.