The central government stands by Kerala in this hour of crisis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said after visiting a temple in Kollam where more than 100 people died on Sunday during a display of unauthorised fireworks.
Modi visited a hospital where the injured are undergoing treatment and described the tragedy as “unimaginable and dreadful”.
“I have told the CM (Oommen Chandy) that the government of India will help if patients are needed to be shifted to Delhi and Mumbai (for better treatment),” Modi said.
“This tragedy is very painful,” he told reporters before concluding his brief visit during which he held a meeting with Kerala chief minister Chandy.
Fireworks during a festival at Puttingal Devi temple in Kollam district’s Paravur, around 60km from capital Thiruvananthpauram, set off explosions and a blaze around 3:10am.
The display, for which no permission was granted, started at midnight as part of an annual festival and thousands of people had gathered to witness it.
The mishap struck at a time Kerala -- governed by the Congress party, which is in opposition at national level -- heads to assembly polls next month.
Modi has directed Union health minister JP Nadda to co-ordinate with the state government for best treatment for the injured.
A team of 25 specialist doctors were deployed from premier facilities --- AIIMS, Safdarjung and Ram Manohar Lohia hospitals --- in New Delhi amid reports of horrific burn injuries. The navy and air force also sent helicopters to evacuate the most critically injured, officials said.
Modi announced Rs 2 lakh in compensation for the families of each of those killed and Rs 50,000 for those injured.
In Kollam, CM Chandy received Modi after the latter arrived in a helicopter. The PM asked Chandy to join him in his vehicle to the temple.
Modi spent about 10 minutes walking around the complex, where state home minister Ramesh Chennithala and Lok Sabha member NK Premachandran explained to him the sequence of events.
From the temple, Modi and Chandy drove to the Kollam district hospital where 185 of the injured were admitted. He then chaired a meeting with the CM and senior officials.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi too visited the site. He was accompanied by Congress leader AK Antony and minister Chennithala.
“This is a tragedy for Kerala and the whole country,” Gandhi said.