At least 110 people were killed and scores injured when an unauthorised fireworks show at a temple in Kerala set off blasts and a blaze early on Sunday, in yet another accident blamed on safety norms violations at places of worship in India.
The tragedy at Puttingal Devi temple in Kollam district’s Paravur, 70km south of capital Thiruvananthpauram, occurred around 3:10am when more than 10,000 people were present.
The temple organises an annual firework display competition, with different groups putting on successive light shows for thousands of devotees gathered for the last day of a seven-day festival honouring the goddess Bhadrakali, a southern Indian incarnation of the Hindu goddess Kali.
This year’s competition was taking place even though there was no permission from district authorities, said Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy, who cancelled his campaign for polls that start in May and rushed to the spot.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he will reach Kerala soon. He directed Union health minister JP Nadda to “immediately reach the site”.
As it happened
5:35pm: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visits the accident spot.
5:35pm: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi arrives in Kollam.
5:35pm:PM Modi, Kerala CM Chandy and Union health minister JP Nadda hold a meeting to take stock of the situation.
5:30pm:PM Modi, Kerala CM Chandy and Union health minister JP Nadda hold a meeting to take stock of the situation.
5:20pm: PM Modi visits AA Rahim Memorial Hospital in Kollam where injured people are being given medical assistance.
3:35 pm: PM Narendra Modi meets Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy. Modi arrived in Kollam in a helicopter with a team of doctors.
3:30 pm The central government has asked Kerala home secretary to look into the fore racks and explosive laws to make it more stringent.
3:16 pm Kerala CM announces ex-gratia relief of ₹10 lakh to kin of each of those killed in fire tragedy, ₹2 lakh for injured. Earlier in the day, PM had announced ex-gratia relief of Rs 2 lakh to the kin of each of those who died in the fire and Rs 50,000 for the injured.
3:00 pm Judicial probe ordered, Modi reaches Trivandrum
A judicial probe has been ordered into temple fire tragedy and the report will be submitted within six months, says Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reached the Trivandrum airport and is expected to reach the Kollam General Hospital at 3:30 PM.
2:30 PM Rescue ops on in full swing
Personnel of the Air Force, Navy and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) joined the Kerala Police, disaster management teams and fire brigade on the scene for rescue and relief work.
Four Air Force choppers, including Mi-17 and Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), joined the rescue operation from Sulur in Coimbatore.
The Indian Navy joined the rescue operation, dispatching one Dornier, two ALHs and medical teams from Garuda Naval Air station near Kochi. One additional Dornier and two Chetaks have also been pressed in by the Navy.
INS Kabra and INS Kalpeni with medical stores on board are being sent to Kollam shortly, while INS Sunayna has already been sent.
The India Coast Guard ICG dispatched one ship loaded with medical team, while another team on its way to Kollam via road and one chopper was positioned at Trivandrum.
2:00 pm Pak offers condolences over Kerala temple tragedy
Pakistan expressed “deep condolences” over a massive fire tragedy at a Kerala temple that has left more than 100 people dead.
“The people and the government of Pakistan express their deep condolences on the loss of precious lives, resulting from a fire in the temple,” Foreign Office Spokesman Nafees Zakaria said.
“Our sympathies are with the bereaved families. We wish early recovery to all injured people,” Zakaria was quoted as saying by Radio Pakistan.
1:25 pm Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy said Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the Kollam General Hospital at 3.05 pm. Chandy will meet the PM at 4.10 pm at Kollam Guest House.
1:20 pm Post-mortem will be carried out: Chandy
Oommen Chandy also said that post-mortem will be carried out expeditiously so that the bodies are handed over to their kin at the earliest.
Asked whether any action will be taken against temple authorities for conducting the display of fireworks since the authorities had denied permission for it, the Chief Minister said a decision regarding this will be taken at a Cabinet meeting to be held shortly.
1:10 PM Locals tell HT that the fire spread after a live fire cracker fell on the godown in which high-intensity crackers were stores. Locals added that crackers worth Rs 10 lakh had been obtained for the event .
12:45 pm Karnataka to send 10-member medical team with drugs and blood to Kollam
Karnataka government said it would send a 10-member medical team with drugs and blood to Kollam in Kerala to provide relief to victims of the tragedy at Puttingal Devi temple complex.
Health Minister UT Khader said state government officials are in touch with Kerala and the Central government and that the government would be sending additional help, based on the requirements.
The team will comprise doctors and paramedical staff.
12:30 pm Nirmala Sitharaman instructs chief controller of Explosives to rush to Kollam
6. firecrackers/explosives. Contrllr of Explosives, Kochi has reached the #KeralaTempleFire already. Controller from Chennai also to join in— Nirmala Sitharaman (@nsitharaman) April 10, 2016
4. Instructed the Chief Controller of Explosives (PESO) to rush to the #KeralaTempleFire site to check on legal/illegal storage/ use of...— Nirmala Sitharaman (@nsitharaman) April 10, 2016
12: 10 pm: BJP president Amit Shah visited Trivandrum Medical College where the people injured in the fire have been receiving treatment.
12:06 pm: Four IAF helicopters have reached Trivandrum and are ready for the task. 2 AN32 aircraft will take two NDRF teams from Arakkonam
Pics of Navy ALH & Dornier involved in Kerala temple fire rescue. Air Force & Army also helping out. pic.twitter.com/AZTudFStEk— DPR (@SpokespersonMoD) April 10, 2016
Directed the health officials at Kollam and Trivandrum to be fully prepared to handle the situation.— Jagat Prakash Nadda (@JPNadda) April 10, 2016
11:53 am Kerala CM Oommen Chandy confirmed that the death toll has risen to 102 while the number of injured has gone up to 280.
11:32 am Modi leaves for Kollam
11:15 am DC had not given permission for fireworks
The Kerala government has ordered a probe into the incident. Television channels reported that the District Collector did not give permission to the temple authorities for fireworks. According to CNN IBN, Competitive fireworks display was also stayed after complaints from local residents.
NewsMinute has accessed the Kollam Additional District Magistrate (ADM) report which shows that the temple had been denied fireworks for the competitive fireworks “in which two temple priests attempt to outdo each other with the kind of fireworks they have in their kitty.”
Chief minister Chandy said the temple officials had gone ahead with the fireworks display despite being denied permission because of safety concerns.
“That is correct. District collector of Kollam denied sanction for this fireworks (display),” he said when asked after whether permission had been given.
11:08 am: Kerala chief Minister Oommen Chandy has reached Kollam. The Prime Minister is taking a team of doctors specialising in treating burn injuries along with him. Modi will be directly landing in the town where the mishap took place.
All protocol including the governor and the chief minister receiving the Prime Minster at the helipad has been waived.
Modi has directed IAF and Navy to divert all helicopters in the command for ferrying injured to major hospitals in nearby cities
10: 44 a m: INS Kabra & INS Kalpeni with medical stores being sailed to Kollam shortly, INS Sunayna also being sailed a little while later
10:30 am: PM Modi has asked for mobilization of Air Force and Navy assets in the area to assist in rescue and relief, ANI reported. He has also instructed that no official welcome protocols should be followed on his arrival in Kollam.
10:15 am Case registered against temple authorities
The temple manager VS Jayalal and two other officials have been booked. A case has also been registered against explosives licensees.
9:40 am Death toll crosses 10, PM announces Rs 2 lakh compensation for the next of kin of the dead
The death toll from a fire that swept through a temple in India’s southern Kerala state during a fireworks display on Sunday may have crossed 100.
The home ministry has so far confirmed 83 dead and more than 200 injured. PM has announced Rs two lakh each as compensation to the next of the kin of the dead in Kollam temple fire; Rs 50,000 to those injured. The PM is to leave for Kerala shortly. He will meet CM Oommen Chandy, will also visit people who got injured in Puttingal fire tragedy.
9:17 am: The death toll has risen to 92 after a massive explosion at a temple in Kollam where crowds had gathered for a fireworks display. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to reach the spot by 3:30pm today.
9:05 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Kerala shortly to take stock of the situation
I will be reaching Kerala soon to take stock of the situation arising due to the unfortunate fire tragedy in Kollam.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 10, 2016
9:00 am: District Collector had denied permission for fireworks
According to initial reports, the district collector had denied permission for fireworks, citing safety issues since the temple is situated in a congested area.
8:45 am: Prime Minister and home minister Rajnath Singh both expressed their condolences, and said that the Centre would assist the Kerala government in any way possible
The state government has sought the centre’s help to deploy army helicopters to evacuate the injured. Prime Minister Narenda Modi said that the centre has made arrangements to ensure helicopters are arranged to transport the injured to the hospital.
Spoke to CM Oommen Chandy about the fire at a temple in Kollam. Arranging for immediate shifting of those critically injured via helicopter.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 10 April 2016
Spoke to Kerala CM Sh.Chandy regarding the Kollam accident who apprised me of the situation.Assured him of all possible help from the Centre— Rajnath Singh (@BJPRajnathSingh) 10 April 2016
Tragedies caused by fire and stampede in places of worship are common in India.
With a large number of people gathering in small premises, evacuation in case of emergencies becomes a challenge for officials.
7:55 am: 86 people have died in the fire, state DGP confirms.
Pictures of fireworks display that caused massive fire at Puttingal temple in Kerala claiming 75 lives&injuring 200 pic.twitter.com/VcieMcBles— ANI (@ANI_news) April 10, 2016
7:45 am: Kerala health minister VS Sivakumar said the injured have been taken to TVM medical college.
7:30 am: Death toll increases to 80.
7: 15 am: Kerala government has sought the Election Commission’s permission to disperse relief.
7:00 am: Fire has been brought under control.
6:45 am: At least 67 people are feared killed and 200 injured in the fire. Reports said many are still trapped under the debris.
3:30 am: Fire breaks out in Puttingal Devi temple of Kollam district, Kerala.