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Over 100 die in Kerala temple fire

More than 100 people have died and as many as 383 injured in a major firecracker explosion and fire at a temple complex in Kerala.

Over 100 die in Kerala temple fire
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People walk past debris resulting from a fire that broke out at a temple in Kollam in Kerala.

Kollam

In one of the worst tragedies to hit Kerala, as many as 100 people were killed and 383 injured in a major fire that engulfed the 100-year-old Puttingal Devi Temple complex during a display of fireworks in the wee hours of Sunday, for which no permission had been granted by the authorities.

A judicial probe by a retired High Court Judge was ordered by the state government along with an investigation by Crime Branch into the tragedy, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy announced after an emergency Cabinet meeting over the tragedy. 

Chandy announced ex-gratia relief of Rs 10 lakh to kin of each of those killed in fire tragedy, Rs 2 lakh for seriously injured and Rs 50,000 for those with minor injuries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Rs two lakh each as compensation for the next of the kin of the dead and Rs 50,000 each for the injured. He later rushed here to take stock of the situation. Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi visited the site of the tragedy. He was accompanied by senior congress leader, AK Antony and state Home Minister, Ramesh Chennithala. Rahul later visited the Kollam district hospital where the injured have been admitted. Pakistan also expressed “deep condolences” on the tragedy. 

The tragedy struck around 3.30 AM during display of fireworks at the temple complex, 70 km from Thiruvananthapuram. The display, for which no permission had been granted by revenue and police officials, had started at midnight as part of an annual festival and thousands of people had gathered to witness it. The mishap occurred as sparks of the fireworks fell on the store room ‘Kambapura’ and the fire crackers kept there exploded with a deafening noise, police said. 

The sound of the explosion could be heard over a radius of one kilometre and the whole area plunged into darkness as the power supply went off and people ran helter-skelter, eyewitnesses said. The Chief Minister said the District Collector of Kollam had not given permission to conduct the fireworks.

Police sources said a case has been registered against temple authorities and explosive licencees under section 307 (Attempt to murder), and 308 (Attempt to commit culpable homicide) of IPC and under section 4 of Explosives Substances Act. 

The Indian Airforce has launched relief operations to help transport the seriously injured. A total of 10 transport aircraft and helicopters have been pressed into service. National Disaster Response Force teams from Arakkonam near Chennai in Tamil Nadu and medical teams are also being brought to provide timely medical relief to the victims. The Indian Navy has deputed three Naval ships with medical supplies to Kollam coast to give medical assistance to the injured. It is also deploying one Dornier and two ALH with medical teams from the southern naval command. 

Lalu, a TV journalist who was watching the fireworks from the terrace of a nearby building, said, “I saw a huge fireball and then a thundering sound. Electricity in the area went off and I heard people screaming. It was a very chilling experience.”

CONDOLENCES

“I convey my sincere condolences to the bereaved members of the families in this hour of grief and wish the injured a speedy recovery,” says K Rosaiah, Governor of Tamil Nadu.

“I am shocked and deeply grieved to learn of the very unfortunate and tragic fire accident that occurred at Paravur near Kollam, Kerala in which more than 100 persons have lost their lives,” says J Jayalalithaa, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

“Heartfelt condolences to the family members of the bereaved and those injured,” says M Karunanidhi DMK President.

“Shaken by the tragic news of #Kollam. Thoughts and prayers go out to those affected. May God give us strength and resolve to bear this loss,” Sachin Tendulkar, cricketer, MP.

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