In a major tragedy, over 80 people, including some policemen, were killed and 250 injured in a major fire caused by festive firework at the famous Puttingal Devi temple in Paravur, Kollam of the southern Indian state Kerala early Sunday morning, said police.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the accident as “shock beyond words” and said his thought and prayers went to the victims of the inferno which took place during a traditional temple festival.
The fire broke out at around 03:00 a.m. local time when people were celebrating with fireworks and crackers which engulfed part of the temple premises, where some 10,000 to 15,000 people, mostly women and children, gathered for fireworks performance.
TV footages showed huge amount of bomb like crackers were being used at the fire display, a traditional activity of the temple, known for its unique architectural style and special for women worshippers and located in the scenic coastal town of Paravur located about 60 kms from Kochi.
The roof of the temple was damaged by fire, said police, who suspect a huge explosion had occurred at a storeroom filled with crackers and pyrotechnics materials, causing the inferno.
State officials said a probe has been launched into the accident, whose casualties was said to be unprecedented in the state, one of the most developed and wealthiest in India famous for its tourist attractions.
The firework display was only around half an hour to finish when a spark of an already lit cracker landed in the concrete building that stored the high potency crackers. In few minutes, the building came crashing down and people felt the place shaking, according to Indo-Asian News Service.
The explosion was so powerful that numerous homes in half a kilometer radius have been damaged, said the news service.
Officials said it is not clear if there was any permission for this display.
State Health Minister V.S. Sivakumar said the injured have been brought to the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College hospital in the state capital.
“Numerous people are under treatment in hospitals at Kollam. The health department is fully geared to provide the necessary treatment,” said Sivakumar.
Meanwhile, Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala announced financial assistance to the dead and the injured.
It took hours for firemen to put the fire under control and heavy equipment machineries are now working to clear the debris.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said he would announce immediate relief to the victims.
Kerala is due to hold a local legislative election later this year and the incident is expected to have a huge impact on the result of the polls.
Temple accidents are common in India. In October 2013, over 100 were killed in a stampede at a temple in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. Enditem