Even as Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy hinted that the fireworks display at Kerala’s 100-year-old Puttingal Devi temple was illegal, conflicting reports emerged on the administration granting permission for the religious event.
A mishap at the event – a fireworks competition between two religious groups – resulted in a fire that killed at least 110 people and injured scores of others in Paravaur, Kollam district, early on Sunday. As over a tenth of the 389 injured people suffered over 40% burns, the toll is likely to rise further in the hours to come.
While the office of Kollam district collector A Shainamol told PTI that the event organisers had not received permission for the fireworks display, local residents claimed that the ban was lifted late on Saturday night. A clarification could not be sought from temple officials because they went absconding soon after the tragedy occurred.
Source said a ban had been imposed on the fireworks event after Pankajakshi, a woman residing near the temple premises, filed a complaint with the local authorities. She said the temple officials had responded by issuing threats on several occasions.
Residents of the area said the ban was lifted on Saturday night, following a ‘mutual agreement’ between religious groups and the authorities. However, Kollam city police commissioner P Prakash rejected the claim.
“The local residents said they received oral permission for conducting the event. The temple authorities did not have the permission, and we did not give them any permission,” he said, adding that a case had been registered.
A team from the Forensic Science Laboratory in Thiruvananthapuram was expected to reach the spot soon, he said.
Fire force director general of police Loknath Behara said that the incident would be treated as a “criminal act”. A special fire force team will also probe the incident, he added.
The state cabinet – which held an emergency meeting in view of the incident – announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the next of kin of the deceased people, and Rs 2 lakh for the injured. It also announced a judicial probe into the incident.
(With agency inputs)