KOLLAM: An explosion and massive blaze, apparently sparked by a stray firework during an unauthorised display, killed over 100 people and injured more than 380 more at a temple complex in India on Sunday.
Thousands of devotees had packed into Kerala’s Puttingal Devi Temple in Kollam to watch the display that started at midnight and went on for four hours.
But a stray cracker fell onto a shed where the fireworks were stored, sparking a string of powerful explosions that blew the roof of the administrative block of the temple and caused another building to collapse.
“It came like a storm, throwing everyone to the ground. There were bodies all over the place,” said Anish Kumar, who had gone with his friends to see the display at the temple.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who flew to Kollam along with a team of doctors, described the accident as “heart-rending and shocking beyond words”.
Kerala’s Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said 60 of the 100 dead had been identified while the number of people admitted to hospitals in Kollam and the state capital had risen to 383.
“I had denied permission for this fireworks because they had asked permission for conducting it on a competition basis,” Kollam district collector A. Shainomal told the NDTV network.
Kerala government has ordered a judicial inquiry into the cause of the disasters.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called Modi late on Sunday and offered condolences over the Kerala fire tragedy.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2016.