108 killed in massive Kerala temple blaze caused by fireworks

MERAfireAt least 108 people were killed and 383 injured in a massive fire that engulfed the 100-year-old Puttingal Devi Temple near Kollam during an unauthorised display of fireworks.

The tragedy struck in the early hours after the fireworks started at midnight as part of an annual festival, and thousands of people had gathered to witness the event, but sparks from the fireworks landed on the store room and the crackers kept there exploded causing a blaze that quickly spread trapping the devotees within the temple complex. The explosions also ripped chunks of concrete and plaster from the temple and nearby buildings that fell on people, killing some and wounding many others.

The sound of the explosions could be heard over a radius of one kilometre and the whole area plunged into darkness as the power supply went off and people ran amok to find shelter from the flames.

The Navy and Air Force were pressed into service to help rescue people from the inferno and transfer the injured to hospitals.

An official statement says 75 bodies have been identified, 84 post mortems have been conducted, and scientific examinations are to be done to identify the bodies that have not yet been claimed.

Local people say the 15-member temple committee that was in the area when the blaze occurred, went missing soon after the incident.

Chief minister Oommen Chandy confirmed that no permission was given to permit the fireworks, and he has announced ex-gratia relief of Rs.1 million to kin of each of those killed, Rs.200,000 for the seriously injured and Rs.50,000 for those with minor injuries. PM Narendra Modi has also announced compensations for the kin of the dead and injured. He later flew to the site and took stock of the tragic scene.