Kollam, Apr 10 (PTI) In a huge tragedy, 110 people were killed and over 280 injured in a major fire that broke out in Puttingal Devi Temple complex near here in Kerala today during a display of fireworks for which there was no permission from the authorities.
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.
In the huge blaze, 110 people perished and 280 were injured, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told reporters.
A massive effort was launched to rescue the people from the inferno and shift the injured people to hospitals, with the Navy and the Air Force pressing into service six helicopters and one Dornier aircraft.
The Chief Minister said the District Collector of Kollam had not given permission to conduct the fireworks.
The District Collector A Shainamol said “no permission for any kind of fireworks” was given.
She said the temple authorities had asked for permission to conduct competitive fireworks which was denied. For normal fireworks, no permission was sought and hence there was no question of granting it, the DC said.
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.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who termed the incident as “heart-rending” and “shocking”, 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 rushed to Kerala to take stock of the situation, carrying along with him a team of specialised doctors.
“The condition of some of the injured is stated to be very serious and the injured have been admitted to various hospitals in and around Kollam and in Thiruvananthapuram,” the Kerala Chief Minister said.
He said the injured would be shifted to whichever hospitals their relatives wanted to be taken to ensure the best treatment. “The government will take care of all the medical expenses,” he said.
Chandy said the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had called him to express their grief over the tragedy and the central government has promised all help. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi is also travelling to the accident site.
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 broght dead.
“Fire at temple in Kollam is heart-rending & shocking beyond words. My thoughts are with families of the deceased & prayers with the injured,” the Prime Minister said in a tweet earlier.
“Spoke to CM Oommen Chandy about the fire at a temple in Kollam. Arranging for immediate shifting of those critically injured via helicopter,” he tweeted in the morning.
The PMO said Modi was constantly monitoring the situation and was in touch with officials. He had directed that no protocol formalities be observed on his arrival in Kerala as focus should remain on relief and rescue operations in Kollam.
Modi said he had also asked Health Minister J P Nadda to immediately reach the site of the fire tragedy in Kollam.
BJP National President Amit Shah cancelled all his public functions in Kerala today and has rushed to the Trivandrum Medical college to visit the injured patients.