A massive fire broke out at the Puttingal Devi temple in Kollam in the wee hours of Sunday morning. 110 people are estimated to be have been killed and more than 280 people are said to have been injured.
The fire is said to have broken out when a display of fireworks was being held for a festival in the temple, said the police. Thousands of people had gathered at the temple precincts to witness the display of fireworks which was underway since midnight when the blaze erupted at around 3.30 AM, police said.
According to the police the mishap occurred as sparks from the fireworks fell on the store room filled with crackers and pyrotechnics materials, triggering a massive explosion.
Eyewitnesses said the sound of the explosion could be heard over a radius of one kilometer and the whole area plunged into darkness as the power supply went off. This further created panic among the devotees.
Authorities revealed that fireworks were displayed even when a permission to conduct fireworks was denied by the district authorities.
The District Collector A Shainamol said “no permission for any kind of fireworks” was given. She said the temple authorities had asked for permission to conduct competitive fireworks which was denied. For normal fireworks, no permission was sought and hence there was no question of granting it, the DC said.
Police sources said a case has been registered against temple authorities and explosive licencees under section 307 (Attempt to murder), and 308 (Attempt to commit culpable homicide) of IPC and under section 4 of Explosives Substances Act.
Kerala CM Oommen Chandy has ordered a judicial probe into the incident.
Meanwhile, a massive effort has been launched to rescue the people from the inferno and shift the injured people to hospitals, with the Navy and the Air Force pressing into service six helicopters and one Dornier aircraft.
(With inputs from PTI)