In a huge tragedy, 102 people were killed and over 280 injured in a major fire that broke out in Puttingal Devi Temple complex near here in Kerala on Sunday during a display of fireworks for which there was no permission from the authorities.
The Kerala government ordered a judicial probe into the tragedy. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that the Crime Branch of Kerala Police would also investigate the disaster at the Puttingal Devi temple in Peravur town.
Thousands of people had gathered at the temple precincts to witness the display of fireworks which was underway since midnight when the blaze erupted at around 3.30 AM, police said.
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 kilometer and the whole area plunged into darkness as the power supply went off and people ran helter skelter, eyewitnesses said.
Massive rescue effort
Over 250 injured have been brought to the Trivandrum Medical College hopsital, Kollam district hospital and various private hospitals in kollam. Trivandrum Medical College hospital sources said 112 injured persons have been brought to the hospital so far and 13 of them had been brought dead.
A massive effort was launched to shift the injured people to hospitals, with the Navy and the Air Force pressing into service six helicopters and one Dornier aircraft.
Our correspondant Namrata Arora reports that the National Crisis Management committee headed by cabinet secretary has rushed doctors and burn specialists from RML, Safdarjung Hospital and other specialised hospitals in the capital to Kerala. Three medical teams consisting of 27 medical personnel are being dispatched.
Some doctors have already been sent along with the Prime minister while others are following in another aircraft. Two medical teams of the Navy have also been sent in a special helicopter. One has medical team of the Airforce has reached Kollam while three others are stationed in Thiruvananthapuram. Union Health minister J.P. Nadda is already camping in the state.
Kerala government announced Rs 10 lakh compensation to families of each of the dead. Earlier Prime Minister Modi had announced Rs two lakh each as compensation for the next of the kin of the dead and Rs 50,000 each for the injured.
Violation of rules
The chief minister said the District Collector of Kollam had not given permission to conduct the fireworks. Kollam District Collector A. Shinemol had told the temple authorities that permission would not be given for any fireworks show. For normal fireworks, no permission was sought and hence there was no question of granting it, the DC said.
Case filed against temple authorities
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.
Modi rushes to Kerala
Fire at temple in Kollam is heart-rending & shocking beyond words. My thoughts are with families of the deceased & prayers with the injured.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 10, 2016
Prime Minister Narendra Modi rushed to Kerala to take stock of the situation, carrying along with him a team of burn specialist doctors.
The BJP cancelled the election programmes of its president Amit Shah, who was to campaign on Sunday at Pathanamthitta. He will visit Kerala only to meet the injured.
(With inputs from PTI)