110 killed, 400 injured in firework explosion in temple at Kerala

110 killed, 400 injured in firework explosion in temple at Kerala

Paravoor(Kollam), Apr 10: In a heart rending tragedy, at least 110 people were killed and nearly 400 injured in an explosion during a fireworks display at Paravoor Puttingal Devi Temple in this district of Kerala early today.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi rushed to the accident site to supervise relief operations.

As many as 383 injured were undergoing treatment at various government and private hospitals where the condition of 77 of them were stated to be serious.

Only 78 bodies could be identified so far as some of them were charred beyond recognition.

”A central medical team will assist the state government to conduct DNA test to verify the identity of the remaining deceased,” Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affair Rajiv Pratap Rudy told newspersons at the Kollam District Hospital where more than 75 bodies were kept.

Union Health Minister J P Nadda was asked to camp in Kollam to supervise medical care to the injured persons who were undergoing treatment at various hospitals.

The Prime Minister, who reached at the Kollam Ashramam Maidan after cancelling all his scheduled programmes, drove straight to the site of the fire and enquired about the details of the tragedy from Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and state Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala. He also visited the injured in the Kollam District hospital and interacted with doctors and the relatives of the victims.

Later, Modi chaired a high-level meeting at the Kollam Ashramam Guest House to coordinate relief operations.

The PM said, ”the mishap is heart-rending and shocking beyond words. My thoughts are with families of the deceased and prayers with the injured.”

Talking to newspersons at Kollam after an emergency meeting of the State Cabinet, the Chief Minister said an ex-gratia of Rs ten lakh each was sanctioned to the next of kin of the deceased and up to Rs two lakh each to the injured. A judicial inquiry would be conducted into the tragedy, one of the worst in the history of Kerala, Chandy added.

The Central Government also announced a sum of Rs two lakh to the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to the injured.

It was one of the most massive rescue and relief operations launched in the history of the state. All the victims could be shifted to hospitals within three hours after the massive explosion which brought down a few buildings near the ground. Earth excavators were pressed into service to rescue the injured trapped inside the debris.

Besides scores of ambulances, the Indian Air Force pressed ten of its helicopters to ferry injured to the hospitals. Steps were being taken airlift seriously injured to hospitals in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.

A 26-member medical team from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and other hospitals from Delhi also reached the Thiruvananthapuram medical college Hospital and Kollam District Hospital.

Sparks of a dynamite fell into the stack of crackers kept in a makeshift compartment at the ground, triggering the fire.

Sources said the devotees, who gathered to witness the fire works on the culmination of the temple festival, did not heed the warnings, which is the reason for the increase in casualty.

A pall of gloom descended on the coastal town, 60 km from Thiruvananthapuram, as scores of families in the locality lost their near and dear ones.

Nearly 500 houses in a radius of one km were damaged under the impact of the explosion. A person standing at least one km away from the accident site was killed when a concrete piece fell on him.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and former Defence Minister A K Antony also visited the accident site and the hospital.

Kollam District Collector Shinamole told newspersons that the district administration had turned down the application from the temple authorities to conduct the competitive fireworks display considering the security aspects.

Sources said about 10,000 people were at the ground when the fireworks display started in the wee hours.

Police also seized 150 kg explosive materials from the residence of fireworks contractor Surendran who was also seriously injured in the blaze. Five associates of the contractor were also taken into custody in connection with the incident.

A local resident, Prakashan, said he lodged a complaint with the police earlier to deny permission to hold the fireworks display as neighbouring houses suffered damages on the previous occasions.

An elderly woman, Pankajaskhi Amma, whose nearby house was destroyed in the mishap, said though she sent several complaints to the authorities to stop the firework display, no action was taken.

Meanwhile, High Court retired Judge Justice N Krishnanan Nair would inquire into the mishap. The Kerala Cabinet asked him to submit a report within six months. The state Crime Branch was also asked to inquire into it.

The Chief Minister also directed the Additional Chief Secretary to frame stringent guidelines to allow fireworks display during temple festivals in Kerala in view of today’s tragic incident.  (UNI)

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