India temple fire kills over 100 people

New Delhi—A major explosion and fire swept through a temple in southern India on Sunday, killing more than 100 people and injuring scores more who had gathered to watch an unofficial fireworks display.
Thousands had packed overnight into the Hindu temple in Kerala state where fireworks appear to have landed on an unexploded stash, triggering a blast, in a tragedy Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said was “shocking beyond words”.
“It has been confirmed that 102 people were killed and 280 injured and admitted to various hospitals. Now our focus is to provide the best treatment to the injured,” Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told reporters.
Residents described hearing a huge explosion that shattered the windows of their homes some 100 metres (109 yards) away, before racing to look for survivors in the rubble.
“This morning when we came, there were body parts on the floor… on the roof there was a hand, an arm,” local Anita Prakash told the CNN-IBN network, adding that she had raised safety concerns about previous firework displays.
A team of specialist doctors was being deployed from New Delhi to the disaster site amid reports of horrific burns suffered by those caught in the blaze at the Puttingal Devi temple. The navy and air force were also sending helicopters to evacuate the most critically injured, federal Health Minister J.P. Nadda said.
Firefighters and police battled through the night at the temple in the coastal town of Paravur to douse the fire and rescue those trapped in the gutted temple complex.
Television footage showed a series of large explosions and fireworks erupting as plumes of smoke filled the night air after about 3am. Concrete rubble and charred debris was strewn throughout the complex at daybreak, while police examined large unexploded bundles of fireworks.
“Now the situation is under control… the police are on the spot,” Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala told NDTV. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said temple officials had gone ahead with the fireworks display despite being denied permission because of safety concerns.
“That is correct. District collector of Kollam (was) denied sanction for this fireworks (display),” he said when asked whether permission had been given. The Kerala government ordered an inquiry into the cause of the disaster.
A local lawmaker said it occurred after one firework landed on a building that was storing the rest of the pyrotechnic material.
“It has happened after 75 per cent of the fireworks were (already) burst. It was actually fortunate, otherwise the casualties would have been much, much, much more,” N.K. Premachandran, state MP for Kollam district, told NDTV.—AFP

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