October 21, 2016

Indian temple fire kills at least 100

There was an explosion in a store of fireworks

A massive fire has swept through a temple in India during a fireworks display, killing at least 100 people and injuring at least 200 others.

The fire broke out on Sunday morning, officials said, when a spark from the show ignited a separate pile of fireworks that was being stored at the Puttingal temple complex in the coastal town of Paravur in Kerala state.

Thousands of people were packed into the temple when an explosion was heard at about 3am local time. The blaze then spread quickly through the building, trapping people inside.

Al Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan, reporting from Delhi, said daily celebrations were being held in the country to mark a Hindu festival.

More than 200 people were injured after a fire broke out as people gathered for a firework display [Reuters]
“Some of the celebrations take place without the authorities’ permission and without taking into consideration safety measures, which is what happened [on Sunday],” she said, adding that some expected the death toll from the fire to rise.

One Kerala official, who spoke to the Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity, said that at least 84 people had been killed.

Local TV channels showed footage of huge clouds of white smoke billowing from the temple, as fireworks continued to explode in the night sky.

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, said on Twitter that he was on his way to the site of the fire.

Concrete hurled

Successive explosions from the building storing the fireworks sent lumps of concrete flying up to a kilometre away, local resident Jayashree Harikrishnan told the AFP news agency.

“Huge pieces of concrete were flying through the air. Chunks landed in our yard,” she said.

By morning, firefighters had brought the blaze under control, officials said.

Rescuers were sifting through the wreckage looking for survivors, while diggers cleared the debris and ambulances ferried the injured to nearby hospitals.

Every year, the temple holds a competitive fireworks display, 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.

State Labour Minister Shibu Baby John said the incident would be investigated, and the victims would be compensated.

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