Major Fire At Indian Temple Leaves Over 110 People Dead, 300 Injured [Updated]

A major fire that broke out at a temple in India has left over 110 people dead, The Indian Express reports. The fire broke out at the Puttingal temple located in the Kollam district of Kerala, Southern India. The tragedy happened in the wee hours of Sunday morning at around 3:30 a.m., local time. Initial reports say the explosion was sparked off by a firework that set fire to a huge stockpile of fireworks that were stocked inside the temple premises for a traditional ceremony. By 6:40 a.m. local time, the efforts of the emergency workers and the fire brigade paid off and they were able to bring the blaze under control. Several of the dead included women and children, most of whom have been charred beyond recognition. The dead also include local police officers who were on duty to control the crowd. Efforts are on to identify the dead.

While temples are required to take permission from authorities before they are allowed to store and use fireworks, it remains unclear if such a permission was granted to this temple for stockpiling plenty of fireworks. Initial reports by local TV channel Asianet News say that the temple did not have the required permissions in place. According to Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, the Director General of Police has been asked to rush to the site and he will coordinate all rescue efforts.

“The temple holds an annual firework display every year. We’re doing our best to rescue those still trapped.” he said.

Initial reports had put the death toll at 66. However, the number went up to 77 at the time of filing this report. Eyewitnesses say the death toll could go up further as officials are still taking stock of the tragedy and counting the number of people who have been admitted to different hospitals in the region. Those who have been severely injured have been referred to better hospitals in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram, a senior police official told media-persons.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister of Kerala, Mr. Oommen Chandy, and several other senior officials from the state government have rushed to the spot.

An official inquiry would be launched by the government to investigate the cause of the accident.

Kerala is one of the southernmost states in India and is popularly known as “God’s Own Country” because of its scenic beauty.

Update: The death toll in the accident has risen to over 110 people, fresh reports confirm. The initial death toll was reported to be 66. This number went up to 77 and currently stands at 110 individuals. Efforts are on to identify the dead bodies. The government has assured that DNA testing would be done to identify bodies that have been charred beyond recognition.

Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi expressed shock and anguish over the incident and tweeted about the same in the morning.

By afternoon, Modi had reached the disaster site where he took stock of the situation. He was accompanied by other ministers and senior officials from Kerala.

The Kerala government has confirmed that the government would pay an amount of Rs. 10 lakh ($15,000) to kin of each of those killed in fire tragedy. The injured would get Rs 2 lakh ($3,000) for treatment and other expenses.

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