At least 90 people have been killed and 350 injured after a fire broke out at the Puttingal temple in Paravur in Kerala’s Kollam district early this morning, officials said today.
The fire started around 3 am at a ground next to the temple where 10,000 to 15,000 people were present for a festival and to watch the fireworks all night. (Pictures)
“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 group and people could run away,” a police official said. Officials are investigating if a competitive display of fireworks, which is banned, led to the fire.
Television footage showed huge clouds of white smoke billowing from the temple, as fireworks went off in the night sky. Successive explosions from the building storing the fireworks sent huge chunks of concrete flying as far as a kilometer according to a witness, reported news agency AFP.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his anguish on Twitter and said he will be reaching Kerala soon to take stock of the situation.
Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy who is also on his way to the spot, said the fire was “unprecedented” and “alarming”. Helicopters have been requested to ferry the seriously injured to hospitals, he told NDTV.
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 fire, which also damaged the Puttingal temple’s roof, broke out during celebrations for the New Year festival of Vishu in the coastal town around 60 km from Thiruvananthapuram.
By morning, firefighters had brought the blaze under control, officials said. Rescuers were sifting through the wreckage in search of survivors, while backhoes were clearing the debris and ambulances ferried the injured to nearby hospitals.
Helpline Numbers: 0474 2512344, 949760778, 949730869